CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Kristin Jones

Kristin Jones, a consultant to CPJ's Asia program, is an independent investigative reporter. In 2011, she was part of a team that won a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for "Seeking Justice for Campus Rapes," a collaboration between NPR and the Center for Public Integrity. Jones was CPJ's senior Asia research associate until 2007. She led writing on the CPJ report "Falling Short," which documented press freedom abuses in China ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.

2008


Blog   |   China, Georgia

Olympics-China Media Watch: Re-education scrubbed from Web, mostly

Bob Dietz called attention to the Chinese propaganda department's recent 21-point press directive, first reported by the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. The whole thing in English and Chinese is posted today at Berkeley's China Digital Times. Among the orders given to the domestic media during the Olympic Games is that they are not to report on the protest zones set up at three places around Beijing. This apparently holds true even if they are empty, which they are.

August 22, 2008 1:57 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Reflecting on success

Chen Ruolin's win in the women's 10-meter platform dive today brought China's gold medal count to 46, and dominated the online headlines. With the closing ceremony just three days away, news outlets are trumpeting the unprecedented victories of the Chinese athletes, now leading their closest competitor, the United States, by 18 gold medals. They are also reflecting on what the success means.

August 21, 2008 1:30 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Web censors crash funeral of Mao's protege

Buried in the celebration of China's now inevitable dominance of the Olympic Games, Xinhua News Agency today reported the death of a former national leader and Mao Zedong's brief successor with these few words:

The Chinese Communist Party's outstanding party member, a warrior for Communism long tested in his loyalty, a revolutionary for the proletariat, who held important posts in the party and national leadership, Comrade Hua Guofeng, because of an illness that couldn't be cured, died in Beijing on August 20, 2008 at 12:50 at the age of 87.

August 20, 2008 1:10 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: The farmer's fuel and the emperor's clothes

Even with the world enthralled in the drama of the Olympic Games, the more basic struggles in the rest of China continue to quietly unfold.

Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis Daily) today published a long article with little apparent connection to the Olympics, a rarity these days. It is actually re-posted from Zhejiang Daily, and tells the story of a farming family that grows vegetables near the city of Hangzhou who are having trouble this year because of the rising costs of production, including the cost of seeds, fertilizer, and fuel for the tractor.  

"Without plowing the earth, the vegetables won't grow," said farmer Wang Guokui.

The main headline on the Web site of the rest of the Southern Media Group is more typical, giving second-day coverage of hurdler Liu Xiang's painful exit from the race: "We love gold medals, we love you more." It's sweet. The New York Times reports that it's also state-mandated; propaganda officials have told news outlets to keep the tone sympathetic, lest rage at the fallen athlete provoke a nasty scene. Xinhua News Agency, voice of the State Council, published an open letter from Liu to his supporters in which he apologized for the disappointment.  

I didn't see any evidence of rage toward the stymied Olympian in a brisk stroll through the Chinese Web today. But I did find a blog post on Bullog reflecting on his clothes. Yes, his track uniform. A blogger departs from his native language to call it "fugly":

Why did they have to give him such a fugly uniform? Does the person who takes care of these things hate him?

August 19, 2008 12:34 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Glory, disappointment, and reflection

Just as American audiences have been fixated on the performances of Michael Phelps during the Olympic Games, Chinese viewers have been anticipating the heroics of hurdler Liu Xiang. So his dropping out of the 110-meter race today with an injury was the headliner at major news outlets. Photographs of his anguished coach and shocked commentaries of his loving fans led the Web.

August 18, 2008 12:34 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Zola live-blogs his detention

Global Voices Online noticed yesterday when guerrilla blogger Zola (Zhou Shuguang) began tweeting his own detention. His BlackBerry let the world know that local officials had intercepted him in the town of Fengmuqiao in Hunan province, and he posted updates as they forced him into a car to drive him home. If he leaves his hometown of Meitanba again, they told him, there will be trouble.

Zola is a citizen reporter who takes it upon himself to travel to places where news is happening and blog about it, relying on the kindness of strangers as he goes. (He gets around the ethical quandary this presents by refusing to call himself a journalist.)

August 15, 2008 12:30 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Does Xinhua know gymnast's real age?

NBC coverage of the women's gymnastics team competition made incessant mention of the controversy over the Chinese athletes' ages. Are they really 16, or are they underage? And what does that say about the awful and efficient "machine" that pumps out China's Olympians? NBC announcers made sure that American viewers pondered the matter as the gold medal went to the Chinese team.

August 14, 2008 11:12 AM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Look at picture, don't say a word

Bloggers in China know that certain words are easily picked out by censors' keyword searches. So they don't use them, and their posts stay up longer. But images are harder to detect, particularly if they aren't labeled.

Today, somebody calling himself Qian Tiexian started a thread at the blog aggregator Bullog with the title "Two children." The text reads only "Look at the picture, don't speak." Beneath it (just in case it has disappeared by the time you get there) are two photos. The first shows basketball star Yao Ming and the 9-year-old earthquake survivor Lin Hao walking side by side during Friday's opening ceremony. The moving image of the gentle giant and the fierce little warrior hero at the head of the Chinese national delegation is familiar to any one of the billions of people who watched the ceremony. Below it is another photo, this one of a very small boy with a cut on his face holding a handwritten sign in Chinese and English: "Shandong Huimin county government illegally sold my grandmother's house and took away the money!"

August 13, 2008 12:15 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Careful coverage of stabbing

Despite reports of censorship, several Chinese newspapers have reported on the stabbing death in Beijing on Saturday of a relative of the U.S. men's volleyball coach. But most of the reporting has been limited to official statements. Emphasizing that the attacker acted alone, Beijing Youth Daily yesterday quoted Beijing Olympic Committee official Wang Wei in identifying the victim as the father-in-law of the U.S. coach. Early Chinese-language reports in Xinhua had simply called him a tourist.

August 12, 2008 12:35 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Violence far from Nest

Major news coverage in China and elsewhere is naturally devoted to the Games themselves. Two Chinese weightlifters and the Chinese men's synchronized divers won gold medals today. Yesterday's news of 17 synchronized attacks with homemade explosives in the western region of Xinjiang received little coverage in or out of China.

The exception once again was Caijing, a financial news magazine that has competed strongly against both the central government's Xinhua News Agency and international news outlets. The magazine's Web site followed three articles yesterday with second-day coverage from the scene that gave added details on the deaths of an injured security guard and a Uighur civilian in the attacks, news of an official press conference, and a description of a restaurant that was destroyed in an attack: 

August 11, 2008 12:45 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: New attacks are reported in Xinjiang

Xinhua News Agency in Chinese is reporting a series of early morning "terrorist" attacks on markets, bars, and government targets today in Kuche county, in China's far-western region of Xinjiang. A security guard died in the attacks. A second security guard, two paramilitary police, and two civilians were injured, and many buildings were damaged, according to the latest Xinhua report at 10:19 pm Beijing time. Eight terrorists were killed by police, two were arrested, and two were killed by their own explosives, the official news agency says. Three more are on the loose.  
   
August 10, 2008 10:29 AM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Xinhua sole news source on tourist attack

Today's news of an attack on tourists at a popular sightseeing spot in Beijing has been handled by Xinhua News Agency alone. Other news outlets are simply re-posting its account. This is the norm for sensitive issues. Xinhua is a part of the central government's State Council and undergoes rigorous pre-censorship, which sets it apart from other Chinese news outlets (which are censored to a lesser degree). It is likely that news organizations received specific instruction from the Central Propaganda Department not to do their own reporting on the attack.

August 9, 2008 9:49 AM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: The spectacular

Images steal the day. Web sites around China were live-streaming the opening ceremony this evening (even as NBC insisted on broadcasting endless tips on Chinese manners, saving the Big Show for American prime time). Xinhua News Agency and People's Daily re-launched their sites to showcase photos. On 8/8/08 at 8 p.m., images beamed across the world of the magnificent firework display, a parade of national delegations (with corresponding news briefs: Brazilian delegation enters, Kenyan delegation enters, Japanese delegation enters, etc.), and Hu Jintao walking side by side into the festival with George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.

August 8, 2008 1:01 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: What protesters?

On the eve of the opening ceremony, Xinhua News Agency waxes philosophical about the torch's journey tomorrow to the Bird's Nest, its home for the next three weeks. It hasn't been an easy road, and Xinhua refers to the "obstacles" the torch encountered in foreign cities, as well as the Sichuan earthquake in May that diverted its path.

But official Chinese-language news makes no mention that I can see of the last couple of days' protests within Beijing. 

August 7, 2008 11:09 AM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Nationalist fervor and the Olympics

AP Photo/Michael SohnBasketball star Yao Ming carried the Olympic torch through Tiananmen Square today in the triumphant final leg of a relay fraught with protest. His long-legged saunter under the gaze of Mao's portrait captured headlines in today's Web news outlets, along with speculation about who will light the torch at the opening ceremony of the Games on Friday.

Also in the news was the start of Olympic competition in Tianjin, which brought an auspicious win. The Chinese women's soccer team beat Sweden 2-1.

August 6, 2008 10:40 AM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: All the (good) news fit to print

All the news is excellent in China today. The Web site of Xinhua News Agency today leads by telling its audience: "Olympic dream brightens the world." At the provincial levels, the news is equally good, but with a local angle. The Web site of the Southern media group reports that cooperation between south China's Guangdong province and Hong Kong is bound to improve.  

August 5, 2008 10:34 AM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: Terrorism in English, crime in Chinese

Information about today's attack on border police in the western Chinese city of Kashgar is coming almost entirely from the official Xinhua News Agency. What's interesting is the huge difference in the agency's own reports, depending on what language you're reading. In English, the attack was a suspected act of terrorism by Uighur separatists. In Chinese, it barely warrants a mention, and it was described as simply a criminal act.

August 4, 2008 9:30 AM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-China Media Watch: News on the news

The media is in the news. The official Xinhua News Agency chimes in on the fracas over Web access for foreign journalists in the Olympic press center. In a commentary headlined "Do not let 'press freedom' supersede Chinese law" Xinhua defends the government's policy of blocking sensitive Web sites, repeating the justification Games spokesman Sun Weide gives journalists:

August 1, 2008 2:22 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics: IOC says Internet access 'on the table'

Facing massive outcry over Internet restrictions at the Olympic press center, the International Olympic Committee says it met today with Beijing organizers and that "the issues were put on the table."

In a statement issued this afternoon, the IOC says it has not made any deal that allows Internet restrictions to be imposed at the Main Press Center in Beijing. It says the IOC has been encouraged by past assurances from Chinese organizers that the media would be given "the fullest access possible" and that "we trust them to keep their promise." Here is the statement in full:

The IOC has always encouraged the Beijing 2008 organisers to provide media with the fullest access possible to report on the Olympic Games, including access to the internet.

In light of internet access problems which were experienced this week by media in the Olympic Games Main Press Centre in Beijing, the IOC - namely Chairman of the Beijing 2008 IOC Coordination Commission Hein Verbruggen and Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli - held meetings and discussions today with Games organizers (BOCOG) and Chinese authorities.

The issues were put on the table and the IOC requested that the Olympic Games hosts address them. We understand that BOCOG will give details to the media very soon of how the matter has been addressed. We trust them to keep their promise.

The IOC would like to stress that no deal with the Chinese authorities to censor the internet has ever in any way been entered into.

July 31, 2008 2:30 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-Chinese Media Watch: Fading memories of a recent disaster

With the Olympics preparations crowding the headlines, news related to the deadly May earthquake in Sichuan province has faded. There is still plenty to report, including the recovery effort and the bitter resentment of grieving parents who believe that faulty construction played a role in their children's deaths.

But a search of recent Chinese news on the quake digs up mostly official publicity on, for instance, the Education Bureau's new initiative to train teachers in the quake-affected region, the government's commitment to delivering aid to the victims, and the official reconstruction efforts.

July 31, 2008 1:00 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-Chinese Media Watch: Checkpoints at Tiananmen and online

Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday stressed the importance of a secure Olympics, calling the responsibility as heavy as Mount Tai. But while Chinese media today reported on the new checkpoints guarding access to Tiananmen Square, no mention was made of a security measure on the minds of many visiting journalists.

Olympic officials today admitted that earlier promises of open Internet access inside the international press center would not be met. Reuters and other news agencies reported that International Olympic Committee spokesperson Kevan Gosper seemed embarrassed by the reversal:
July 30, 2008 11:11 AM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-Chinese Media Watch: Silence on human rights, pollution reassurances

A report on human rights violations in China is being ignored in the government-controlled media. Human rights organization Amnesty International reported that China has failed to keep Olympic-related promises regarding the treatment of its citizens. The report highlights China's high number of death penalty cases. Neither central nor provincial media cover the report today. But a handful of bloggers do. One blogger translates without comment a BBC News article on the issue. Another blogger writes a few sentences about the Amnesty report, saying she was surprised by its findings. 

"I personally believe that every action that starts from the perspective of protecting human rights should be welcomed, or can be discussed," writes Beijinger conniezhou78 on her Windows Live blog. "But in connection with the specific issue of the death penalty, I think that different countries should be evaluated according to their specific circumstances."

China blocks access to human rights Web sites as a matter of course, but one place where the site was blocked raised some eyebrows today. Reuters and others reported that the Amnesty report was blocked inside the main Olympics press center.

July 29, 2008 9:30 AM ET

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Blog   |   China

Olympics-Chinese Media Watch: Local journalists report bus explosion

Local Chinese journalists beat central government media to the scene of another bus explosion in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming. Today's explosion followed bus bomb blasts that killed two people in Kunming last week. Expect the official Xinhua News Agency to take over from here.

Chinese officials have played down claims of responsibility for the first two bus blasts from a little-known separatist group, the Turkestan Islamic Party. This is a twist on an old story. In recent months, Chinese state media have touted arrests of separatists in its western region of Xinjiang, saying that groups there were plotting to target the Olympics.

But Chinese censors can be fickle about what they want covered, how, and when. Today, the major newspapers all gave big play to the opening of the Olympic Village. Another unexplained explosion in southwest China could be seen as an inconvenient distraction.

The Beijing News was among those giving a splashy headline to the opening of the Village. The paper was back on the stands today after being pulled on Friday for printing a photo by Hong Kong-born photojournalist Liu Xiangcheng of two wounded men being carted from 1989 protests at Tiananmen Square. The Beijing News has gotten into trouble in the past, and CPJ is investigating what the repercussions may be for journalists involved this time around.
July 28, 2008 12:44 PM ET

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