In response to the seven-year jail sentence that a Beijing court passed today on the journalist Gao Yu for “disclosing state secrets,” Reporters Without Borders is releasing internal Chinese Communist Party documents as a form of protest and to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the government's attempts to control news and information.
By releasing these documents, Reporters Without Borders is showing that independent journalists and activists inside China will continue to send censored information abroad and will continue to expose the Communist Party's lies and propaganda.
The internal memos and directives obtained by Reporters Without Borders, which came from the State Internet Information Office and other departments, show how the authorities stepped up their control of the Internet at the end of last year.
The documents – which include censorship directives to news media, memos circulated within Internet companies that cooperate with the censors, and summaries of meetings – testify to the scale of the party's efforts to shape public opinion in accordance with its political vision.
“We are appalled by this verdict and sentence, which ignored the proof of Gao Yu's innocence supplied by her lawyers,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
“Today, the Chinese authorities ensured that a lie prevails so we would like to remind them of a truth: for each journalist or blogger they convict and turn into a political prisoner, they create ten new defenders of freedom of information and media freedom, ten new activists who will defend the public interest by revealing what the authorities want to cover up.
Ismaïl added: “It was thanks to one of these journalists that we obtained these internal Chinese Communist Party documents.”
After the sentence was announced, Gao's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said he would appeal. The authorities accused Gao of sending an internal Communist Party document that was “secret” to a foreign news organization although the document, identified as “Document No. 9,” had already been posted online.
Yesterday, on the eve of the announcement of the sentence, Reporters Without Borders called on the authorities to free Gao and drop all charges against her. Gao, who won the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 1997, has been held since 24 April 2014.
Extracts from the messages to Internet censors and directives to news media and various news websites are available here. Reporters Without Borders will soon post all the documents it obtained.
I’m organising an election hackday at the BBC in Birmingham on Monday April 27.
The event will involve journalists from the BBC and other news websites in the Midlands – but more importantly it’s open to anyone who wants to get stuck into data related to the key issues this election.
If you want to sign up to take part you can do so here. That page also includes details on times and location.
Some more details:
- We’ll be particularly looking at issues affecting young people, and those affecting female voters.
- But immigration, welfare and employment, the NHS, the economy, rural issues, the environment and anything else are all options too.
- Some teams will focus on stories, spending some of the day turning the leads they find in the data into stories with quotes and other elements.
- Some teams will be focused on tools: from interactive maps to resources to make it easier for journalists to fact-check claims made by candidates.
- If you can’t make the whole day but want to contribute something, let me know and we’ll see what we can do.
Filed under: online journalism Tagged: BBC, birmingham, election, hackday
Academic journals are read from cover to cover by fewer than ten people on average, according to an opinion piece in the Straits Times, by Asit K Biswas, and Julian Kirchherr. Biswas, a visiting professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in the National University of Singapore and Kirchherr, a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, argue that university professors and researchers should climb down from their ivory towers and write for more popular, accessible platforms.
“Many of the world’s most talented thinkers may be university professors, but sadly most of them are not shaping today’s public debates or influencing policies,” the authors write.
“Indeed, scholars often frown upon publishing in the popular media. “Running an opinion editorial to share my views with the public? Sounds like activism to me,” a professor recently noted at a conference, hosted by the University of Oxford.”
Yet where academics do want to publish their work in the popular media, the system seems to be against them. Even now, in the digital age of open access and self-publishing, publications in peer-reviewed journals continue to be the key performance indicator within academia. Whether anyone actually reads them does not seem to matter.
Research shows that academics are not reading their colleagues’ articles either. The authors cite evidence showing that of the 1.5m articles published in peer reviewed journals annually, 82 per cent of those published in the humanities are not even cited once.
While there is a movement for change, and some examples of successful academic publishing on open access platforms, the authors argue that it is changing too slowly.
- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/more-opinion-stories/story/prof-no-one-reading-you-20150411#sthash.LhGhskAx.IjRDPp7I.dpuf
pic credit: Flikr Creative Commons: Jenica
No more Bond villain digs for Rupert Murdoch.
Per Wall Street Journal reporter Candace Taylor, Murdoch has decided to get rid of a penthouse lair purchased this time last year. He will hang on to an adjacent three-bedroom apartment on the 57th floor of One Madison, but is jettisoning floors 58 through 60. From her item:
The triplex is roughly 6,850 square feet. Purchased as raw space and currently under construction, it has a wraparound terrace and views of the Hudson and East rivers, the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center.
The aggregate original purchase price was $57.25 million; the new listing price for the penthouse is $72 million. According to Taylor, Murdoch is opting for a renovated $25 million downtown townhouse instead, which he closed on last month. In the article comments, there is already some advice:
Carl Castrogiovanni: Uh oh! Queue the haters.
Dear WSJ Editors: Just shut down the comments section right now. The anti-rich, anti-mansion idiots are bad enough, but with Rupert’s name on this one, the brain-dead haters will be apoplectic in here…
— Leigh Kamping-Carder (@Leigh_KC) April 16, 2015
[Image via: related.com]
If you put “investigative journalism + China” in a Google search bar, you'll probably be disappointed with the few results it returns. There is a book about the topic, "Investigative Journalism in China: Eight Cases in Chinese Watchdog Journalism," which I read a few years ago and would still recommend. For the English-reading world, there is really limited information about this important topic. Even if your Chinese is good enough to perform a search, you will again be surprised about how few relevant results you get.
This is not an indication that investigative journalism is dead in China. But it is indeed declining – check out an article I wrote for IJNet back in 2011 (China’s Next Brain Drain: Investigative Journalists) or a more recent one on the same topic in 2013 (中国第一代调查记者“触顶”转型). My friends who used to work as investigative journalists in China have been flocking to other industries. Many started their own businesses (check out these articles in Chinese 亚洲周刊｜胡泳：新媒體創業風起雲湧爭奪話語權, published earlier this year). Some have turned to non-profits (Deng Fei for example). And some have just retired to open their guesthouses and enjoy life.My friends who worked as investigative journalists in China have flocked to other industries. For those who stay, China remains a gold mine for investigations.
For those who stay and continue to fight, however, China remains a gold mine for investigative stories, with lots of pressing issues – an environmental crisis, government/Party corruption, judicial injustice, public health, and money laundering (see the cases of Bank of China and UnionPay), among others. New technologies and powerful social media, meanwhile, are providing new opportunities and helping stories reach a broader audience and achieve greater social impact.
A recent example is an investigative documentary about air pollution by Ms. Chai Jing, a former reporter for China Central Television (CCTV). She quit her job, led a team, spent 1 million RMB (around US$160,000) and made this film, basically trying to answer three questions: What is the pollutant PM2.5? Where does it come from? How can China solve its pollution problem? You can watch the film here – with English subtitles (crowdsourced by Chinese watchers and led by a high-school final-year student):
The video, entitled Under the Dome, went viral since it launched on March 1, 2015. Within 3 days, it reached 200 million hits. It is a TED-style talk, mixed with traditional TV interviews with credible sources, international reporting (she went to the UK and US to learn from the experience and practice in London and Los Angeles), drone shooting of polluting factories (which failed because the pollution was too serious), data and charts as an effort to make sense of abstract numbers, social network visualization of the corruption within the environment and energy power system, and even animation to illustrate how PM2.5, a harmful micro-particle in pollutants, can invade human bodies and cause irreversible harm.
The video is not perfect – lots of public debate has centered around the way it tells the story and marshals facts and data -- but it successfully leveraged multiple technologies and presentation formats now available to make an extraordinarily powerful film.
Another example is a series of stories around Zhou Yongkang, the most senior Chinese Communist Party official caught in the anti-corruption campaign last year. Carried out by a nine-person team at Caixin magazine, one of the most reputable media organizations in China, the investigation took one year and produced a 60,000-word piece, portions of which are translated into English.
It is solid reporting, but how many people will sit down and read through 60,000 words? So Caixin’s Data Visualization Lab produced an interactive visualization to illustrate the people and companies connected with Zhou. (There's an English version here, but note that it’s designed differently from the Chinese version below.) This project received 4 million hits, according to Huang Zhimin, the CTO of Caixin and head of its Data Visualization Lab.
In other cases, investigations are not done by professional journalists or media organizations, but by ordinary citizens. Interestingly, you don’t hear the term “citizen journalism” in China now, at least not as much as you would a few years ago. But that doesn’t mean citizen journalism is dead. Quite the opposite – with the popularity of social media, everyone provides information and the pieces can quickly come together. A well-known example is the 2012 case of the “watch brother," a local official whose photos of wearing luxury watches were spotted by social media detectives, who identified all the brands (Bulgari, Omega and Rolex, to name a few) and even some of the models. The official was later investigated and sent to jail for 14 years.
Under the Dome was taken down from Chinese video platforms after surviving online for only 7 days. However, an app about pollution that was mentioned in the documentary hit number one in the app store and reached 3 million users. It not only takes data from the Ministry of Environment and makes it more readable, but also has a crowdsourcing function where users can report factories that are disposing pollutants. By March, more than 300 factories had been reported and had to change their behavior.
Changes are happening in Chinese investigative journalism, with the help of more open data and better tools. There are still lots of challenges and risks for doing serious in-depth journalism in China. Censorship is exercised online and offline. Surveillance is by default, internal and external. Media institutions are declining, much as everywhere else in the world. Yet despite of all the difficulties, continuous efforts are being made – always as a collaboration among media organizations, civil society, and individual citizens. And it’s important to keep it going.
Yolanda Ma is the co-founder and editor of Data Journalism China, an independent website that promotes and educates on data journalism in Chinese. She has trained hundreds of professional journalists in China on data analysis and visualization skills since 2012. She also consults for the U.N. on innovation and communications. She previously worked for Reuters and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, and is currently based in Bangkok.