Wednesday, September 20, 2006

China's Iron Grip on Journalism

To many of us young Americans that do not remember the height of the Cold War, the threats of Communism are also often forgotten. But they are still there, and with the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, they are going to be brought again to our attention. One specific example is China's strict control of news and information. In preparation for hosting the games, China has not loosened restrictions on journalists, but has increasingly tightened them, according to an article from Newsweek online.

"Today’s targets are not just domestic media and foreign correspondents, not just our Chinese sources and local assistants. Less than two years before Beijing hosts the 2008 Summer Olympics, authorities are in the midst of a concerted—and disturbing—effort to slam stricter controls on what Chinese know and how they know it. The aim of the recent crackdown is not only to silence individual “troublemakers,” but also to beef up institutional controls over the free flow of information. This is a grim portent for the 2008 Games, when some 20,000 international journalists are expected to descend on Beijing."

New rules even change previous agreements that allowed international news outlets to directly provide some financial and other data to some Chinese clients. Now, everything has to go through the official news agency, Xinhua.

This is scary stuff for those of us who really value freedom of the press. The First Amendment rights we Americans often take for granted are still almost nonexistent in places like China, North Korea and Cuba. This is certainly going to be a major issue during the Olympics in two years.

"For the Olympics, Chinese authorities insist they’ll live up to their promises of free and open press coverage. Even so, how long will it last? Will authorities relax some curbs for, say, a couple of months during the games, but keep the media muzzled before and afterwards?"

Good question. Unfortunately, we may have to just wait and see.

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