Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Freedom of the Press?

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the World Media Summit. It's basically an opportunity for people working in media to get together to discuss "ways of survival and development for the global media industry." (Li Congjun, President of Xinhua News Agency in Beijing.) The theme of the summit is "Cooperation, Action, Win-Win & Development."

It should probably be titled something more along the lines of "Someone Other Than Me Note the Irony in China Hosting a Global Media Summit to Further Media Influence and Power When They Barely Allow Foreign Reporters in Their Own Country Any Rights At All. I Feel Like I'm Taking Crazy Pills!"

I realize that's a long title. So I'm willing to settle with simply "Hypocrisy!" Hoo-ah!

Luckily, someone else agrees with me. See, there's this little group called Human Rights Watch (maybe you've heard of them?) and they've noted the irony in this too. As they say in that article, important people such as News Corporation Chairman & CEO Rupert Murdoch, AP President & CEO Thomas Curley, Reuters News Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger and BBC Director-General Mark Thompson will all be in attendance. They think (and I agree) that these powerful men should probably use this opportunity to encourage China to stop it's media censorship and abuse of journalists and actually live by not only their April 2009 National Human Rights Action Plan that says they'd cease this behavior, but also their constitution, of which Article 35 says that freedom of the press is guaranteed.

Yet, foreign journalists have been pretty much kept out of Tibet since March of '08. This past May, Guangdong provincial government asked the press to limit negative coverage in "national interest." In August, security guards in Guangdong "attacked Guangzhou Daily reporter Liu Manyuan when he attempted to take photos at the scene," beating him for roughly ten minutes. Three Hong Kong journalists were covering ethnic violence in Urumqi when they were teargassed and beaten by anti-riot police just last month. Five other reporters were arrested the same day and the AP news crews equipment was confiscated. (Read more about specific incidents of ill-treatment of journalists in China here.)

Is hoping they'd hold to their own word really asking too much? I don't think so. I mean, they said did they'd do it first. But, as so many people often do, they've gone back on their word and someone needs to hold them to it. And who better than people who are gathering to further media power? And yet, here is their list of objectives for the summit, directly from their website:
  • Media challenges & solutions in digital & multimedia age
  • Traditional media via new emerging media
  • Financial crisis & media response
  • How traditional media to meet challenges of digital and internet technologies
  • Global media merging
  • Challenges & opportunities in digital & multi-media age
  • Hi-tech's impact upon media development
  • Shaping the future of news rooms & journalists
Some are somewhat rough translations from Chinese to English (again, from website), but I was hesitant to correct them in case it was considered "misquoting" or whatever. But, even through rough translations, they're obviously not planning on discussing China's oppression of it's journalists. I suppose it could be part of 'media challenges,' but I get the feeling that's not really what they have in mind.

I just hope it comes up somehow. These men can't be so ignorant to not notice the irony of this whole situation. It's their duty to stand up for their own who are suffering for simply doing their job.

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