What does Press Freedom mean to you?



Mr. Dunham vs Mr. Gong

The following is a copy of the script which I used for the presentation on Press and Broadcasting Freedom. I asked my Chinese friend Jeremy if he wouldn’t mind helping me replicate an interrogation, in which I’d be a journalist detained in China and would be a state policeman giving me a grilling.

The script illustrates both Chinese and Western points of view on press and broadcasting freedom. We worked separately on our questions and answers in order to make it as realistic as possible. I hope it provided those present with an insight into why the Chinese authorities consider the internet to be such a threat to national security.

1.Which organization do you work for? BBC? CNN? What’s your nationality?

 None of those, I’m just a freelance journalist.

2. What’s made you come all the way here to Xinjiang? It’s not a holiday destination!

 I’ve been investigating how your government blocked internet access in the region after the July riot. I’ve come to verify this. What’s wrong with that? I got this information from a Western source.

 3. We have to block internet access in the name of national security. Because ethnic terrorists manipulate internet for terrorist activities which destabilizes the country. Would you not think it’s necessary for the security of innocent citizens?

 I’d argue that if there were a terrorist threat, blocking internet access wouldn’t prevent from further violent acts. I think your government can harness the internet effectively as a propaganda tool to promote stability in the region.

 The government should not have tried to block information from its own citizens regarding the earthquake in Sichuan.70 thousand people perished! If it weren’t for all the people that took videos and photos and posted them on blogs on the internet, the whole world would not have known except the Chinese authority!

4. Mr. Dunham, the Chinese Government has to monitor the internet very carefully to prevent the misuse of the internet and guarantee our national security. I believe we have the technological capacity to do so!

 Let’s face it, China has more internet users than any other country in the world, 253 million! Even if you have 30 thousand cadets secretly policing the web full time, even if you have the best firewalls and you’ve made a massive investment on censoring those who might be critical of the government, you’ll never be 100% sure to stop information from coming out!

 And you’re playing cat and mouse with the web. The power of the internet is boosting the economy, Chinese businesses live by exporting and contacting customers, Chinese universities get information from western universities. Even the people of Xinjiang need the internet to prosper. You’ll never be able to just switch off the internet, you need it! In fact, Chinese people, including government officials, use Google software and email accounts to communicate with each other. I cannot understand why you are trying to hack into human rights activists’ gmail accounts!

 5. Again we have to monitor the use of the internet for our national security. These people you are referring to are not human rights activists. They have endangered our national security. Do you think that your governments don’t monitor what goes on the web? Despite of your views, I think China still has great press freedom at the presence of internet censorship. Nowadays, Chinese citizens can have their opinions read without being censored by the regime, as it used to be for the press. Why do you Westerners think that monitoring the internet is such a huge threat to press freedom?

 Because the state is using the internet as a tool to control the flow of information to Chinese citizens in order to shape their opinions. Your government has started recruiting internet commentators to post positive comments about the authorities. You call them the 50 cent army, right? Because for each article or comments people write, they get 50 cents. 300thousand people in China posting partisan information on the web!

And although the internet provides people the means to publish their opinions publicly without having to get approval from the government, and also access foreign media, the Chinese authorities are doing their very best to censor anything which is critical or deemed an enemy of the state. Take Falung…

Message from the Grave

This remarkable article by the editor of the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader was published three days after he was gunned down outside his house. Lasantha Wickrematunge was an outspoken critic of the government and the strict control they exercised on the media. He foresaw his death, hoping it would serve as an inspiration rather that as a defeat of freedom.Despite the internet providing a means for local Sri Lankan media to have an international reach, the government seems to be winning the battle for its control.

World Press Freedom Prize up for grabs, that’s if you’re willing to die for journalism.

Every year, UNESCO honours an outstanding individual that has defended or promoted press freedom anywhere on the planet. The Guillermo Cano Prize usually goes to courageous journalists who have put their lives on the line for the truth to be heard. Award winners Anna Politkovskaya and Lasantha Wickrematunge  were both murdered before they could pick their prizes.

Anna Politkovskaya's murder is remembered as one of the most serious attacks on press freedom in recent times.

99% of Chinese media is state-controlled. This is the 1% that isn’t…


Jeremy, otherwise known as Harrison, is a Chinese Politics student at University College Falmouth. I recently met him and had an interesting chat with him over lunch. When we started talking about China’s stance on the media, I was surprised to hear that most Chinese citizens accept it as a means of maintaining the status quo. Jeremy explained how people were willing to be kept in ignorance to avoid a state of disorder and panic spreading across their great nation.

I put forward that there must be some news outlets that aren’t monitored by the state. That’s when he told me about Phoenix TV. Based in Hong Kong, this privately-owned television broadcaster is allowed to cover contentious news whilst still maintaining a good relationship with the PRC Government. They were the only Chinese-based media outlet to cover the the Rally Against Basic Law Article 23 on 1 July 2003.


China battles International Media with umbrellas!

Is Google’s relationship with China really on the rocks?

Google has said it might end its operations in China after a sophisticated and targeted cyber attack took place from within the country. Although it didn’t directly blame the PRC government, the internet giant said it was no longer willing to censor its Chinese search engine, and was therefore preparing to close its offices in China.

But why did they agree to censor the internet in the first place? Money, of course. China has more internet users than any other country in the world (350 million), reason enough for Google to ignore its principles and permit the use of firewalls which censor contentious content. When google.cn was launched in 2006, they agreed to censor search results such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Tibetan independence or Falun Gong.

However, China’s lucrative search engine market (worth an estimated £614m) is currently dominated by national company Baidu, holding 60% of the market. They operate under similar censorship standards to Google, a trend which has existed since the internet was introduced in China. Indeed, Microsoft and Yahoo have also given in to pressure from the Chinese Government in the past, seeing profits as more important than freedom of expression in the world’s most populous country.

Financial losses are the most likely cause of this dispute. It is no longer profitable enough for Google to remain in China, so they have had to find a way to gracefully pull out. It’s more than likely that cyber attacks and censorship have been used as a pretext to justify their withdrawal. As the world’s leading search engine, they should be driven by their ethics and reputation as a trustworthy source of information, rather than by money and profits.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.