Sunday, November 4, 2012

Relevant Readings from October 2012 - Cheng Yizhong on Journalism, Peter Ford on the GFW, Eveline Chao on Censorship

Writing in the New Statesman, Cheng Yizhong, co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the Southern Metropolis Daily and the Beijing News:
After 2005, the system enacted the strategy of “demoralise, divide and conquer”. The central publicity department started sending ­censors directly to major media organisations to carry out censorship prior to publication. The central government was therefore not only passing comment on news after publication, but had a pre-publication checkpoint. The dual system formed a pincer movement and provided a double safeguard.

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, journalist Peter Ford:
I have just spent an entire day wrestling with my computer and my Internet connection, and I have a strong suspicion that I have been wrestling too, at a distance, with an agent of the Chinese government who has been doing his or her best to frustrate me. 
In order to access the Web freely from China, you need what is called a Virtual Private Network, which jumps the Great Firewall erected by Chinese censors. Mine expired the other day, so I needed to re-install it.  
That proved unusually difficult, even with online help from the company selling me the VPN, and it became clear that something was just not right.
. . . .
I, like many other journalists, have recently received emails with Trojan horse malware (malicious code that looks like a legitimate file but in fact gives a hacker access to a computer) in their attachments. Cyber analysts who inspected them have warned that the attachments appear to come from state-sponsored hackers.  
Google has also informed me in a banner appearing on my Gmail account that it suspects "state-sponsored" hackers have been trying to penetrate my account.  
The last time this happened to me was during the Tibetan riots in 2008, when the authorities were very, very nervous about foreign journalists and began interfering directly with our communications.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Eveline Chao, former English language consultant at China International Business:
Every legally registered publication in China is subject to review by a censor, sometimes several. Some expat publications have entire teams of censors scouring their otherwise innocuous restaurant reviews and bar write-ups for, depending on one's opinion of foreigners, accidental or coded allusions to sensitive topics. For example, That's Shanghai magazine once had to strike the number 64 from a short, unrelated article because their censors believed it might be read as an oblique reference to June 4, 1989, when the Chinese government bloodily suppressed a pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. Many Chinese-run publications have no censor at all, but their editors are relied upon to know where the line falls -- i.e., to self-censor. 
Our censor, an employee of MOFCOMM, was a nervous, flighty woman in her forties with long, frizzy hair and a high, childlike voice, whose name was Snow. (Snow requested I only use her English name for this article.)
. . . .
Each month, we emailed her our list of article topics for the upcoming issue. After we had edited those articles, we emailed them to Snow, and she sent them back marked with her changes. She reviewed them again in layout, and, once satisfied, would give the printer the order to start the presses.