By Robert Daly, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Robert Daly is director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center. The views expressed are his own. This is the first in the '14 in 2014' series, looking at what the year ahead holds for key countries.
Three stories dominate American coverage of China at the close of 2013: the recent plenum that outlined China’s direction for the next decade, China’s establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, and Beijing’s delayed issuance of visas to American journalists. The common thread in these stories is Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping. Xi’s vision and political acumen are the driving force behind reform proposals that could reshape China. Xi would have had to sign off on an ADIZ that has deepened suspicion that China seeks regional hegemony. And Xi has spearheaded a year-long campaign against freedom of information that may culminate in the closing of the China offices of Bloomberg and the New York Times.
Xi’s program to date is Reform, Resurgence, and Repression. What China becomes under his leadership in 2014 and beyond will depend on whether this modern strongman is truly modern and truly strong, or whether he is cultivating an image of strength in an attempt to rein in a dynamic but fragile nation which an anachronistic CCP can no longer control.
Reform. The policy goals Xi set at the plenum demonstrated that he shares the Chinese people’s concerns for social welfare, sustainable growth, a cleaner environment, and cleaner government. Xi’s self confidence and specificity gave plenum documents the feel of a new social contract. They were a populist’s promise to the masses.
By Sarah Cook, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Sarah Cook is a senior research analyst for East Asia at Freedom House and author of report The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship, which was released October 22 by the National Endowment for Democracy’s Center for International Media Assistance. The views expressed are her own.
The efforts of China’s leaders to prevent its citizens from circulating information inconvenient to the ruling Communist Party are well known. But while censorship is a daily reality for media outlets inside mainland China, their counterparts abroad are increasingly finding themselves under pressure as well.
China’s leaders, it seems, have become more ambitious in their attempts to control the news.
Take last year, when reports surfaced that China’s ambassador to the United States met with Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief to try to persuade the outlet not to run a story about the finances of Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s family. Last May, meanwhile, popular Taiwanese talk show host Cheng Hung-yi resigned after station executives allegedly tried to stop his program from touching on topics sensitive to Beijing. And back in 2011, reportedly at Beijing’s urging, a court in Hanoi sentenced two Vietnamese citizens who practice Falun Gong to prison for transmitting radio broadcasts about human rights abuses and corruption from their farm to listeners in China.
By Howard Cohen
Last month, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy was ousted in a military coup just a year after taking office. Almost 1,000 people have been killed in the ensuing violence as pro-Morsy protesters have taken to the streets to demand his reinstatement. GPS intern Howard Cohen spoke with CNN Senior International Correspondent Arwa Damon, who came under fire while reporting on events in Cairo.
A former CNN cameraman, Mick Deane, was shot and killed in Egypt. You were reporting on the outbreak of violence in the country when gunshots sent you ducking to the ground for cover. Are journalists being deliberately targeted?
That’s a very heavy accusation to make. Mick Deane was shot through the chest, it would seem by a sniper. At the time that we came under fire, we could hear a gun battle in the distance. That was, however, on the other side of a fairly crowded square. A few blocks away from that, people in the square were calm, they were chatting, they were walking around. And all of a sudden, the first bullet came whizzing past my ear. So we moved a bit further away from the square, thinking that perhaps it was a stray bullet that had come by. And then, in the middle of the live shot, there was an intense barrage of gunfire. What you don’t see is that after the camera signal goes down as we were trying to move out of that location, there was gunfire that seemed to be directed towards us also coming from elsewhere. Egypt has never been a friendly environment for journalists. They came under attack numerous times during the uprising against Hosni Mubarak back in 2011 and since then, there have been repeated assaults on journalists.
By Emma Sinclair-Webb, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Emma Sinclair-Webb is a senior Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch who focuses on Turkey. The views expressed are her own.
Sevan Nişanyan, a Turkish-Armenian journalist, wrote a blog entry last September stating that critical comments about religion don’t constitute hate speech. “Making fun of an Arab leader who claimed he contacted God hundreds of years ago and received political, financial and sexual benefits is not hate speech,” he said. “It is an almost kindergarten-level test of what is called freedom of expression.”
An Istanbul court disagreed and on May 22 – for these very words – sentenced him to 13 months in prison for “insulting the religious values of one section of the population.” What makes his prosecution even more chilling is the fact that it followed public comments by Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ recommending that Nişanyan should be prosecuted.
There have been dramatic developments in Turkey in recent months as the government embarks on a bold attempt to end the entrenched conflict with the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and to start down the long road to peace with the Kurdish minority. While the sight of uniformed and armed PKK fighters – male and female – retreating to camps over the border in Iraqi Kurdistan is tangible evidence of progress toward peace, the Turkish authorities and judiciary are still cracking down on people who express dissent in words rather than with an AK47.
By Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Karin Deutsch Karlekar is project director of Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report. The views expressed are her own.
At first glance, it might seem counterintuitive that media freedom is on the decline. After all, in a world in which news is being produced by a broader range of professionals – as well as citizen journalists and bloggers – information is flowing at faster rates than ever before. And with news being transmitted through a greater variety of mediums – including newspapers, radio, television, the internet, mobile phones, flash drives, and social media – one might expect the level of media freedom worldwide to be improving, not worsening.
Yet Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report, which measures the environment journalists operate within as well as access to news and information, shows that the world’s media are often facing growing pressures in a range of political settings. An overall decline in the level of global media freedom – reversing last year’s improvement – was driven by declines in almost every region of the world. Reasons for the deterioration included the continued, increasingly sophisticated repression of independent journalism and new media by authoritarian regimes; the ripple effects of the European economic crisis and longer-term challenges to the financial sustainability of print media; and ongoing threats from nonstate actors such as radical Islamists and organized crime groups.
By Kelley Currie, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Kelley Currie is a senior fellow with the Project 2049 Institute in Washington. The views expressed are her own.
Authoritarian regimes have traditionally relied heavily on controlling the flow of information that their subjects receive as a critical element of maintaining political power. The Chinese Communist Party is no different: they have an extensive and well-funded propaganda apparatus that’s integrated into all aspects of the Party’s operations, coupled with a sophisticated set of tools that are used to control the Chinese public’s access to alternative sources of information. After decades of maintaining a fairly successful monopoly on the flow of information, the party-state’s current approach is much more calibrated and nuanced. It seems to be based on the principles of modern flood-control techniques: allow a greater flow in certain channels when necessary to take the pressure off the highest risk zones. While these techniques are generally successful, recently we’ve seen how freak events and unexpected storms can overwhelm systems that are based on routine handling of high probability events.
The analogy to flood control is an apt one given the latest disaster to tax Beijing’s information management apparatus: the deadly floods that swept through the capital on July 21. The systemic failures that led to at least 77 flood-related deaths have been broadly commented on, and have recalled another deadly infrastructure disaster that occurred almost exactly one year earlier: the Wenzhou high-speed-rail crash on July 23, 2011.
By Fareed Zakaria
The death of Syria's defense minister – in an apparent suicide bombing for which the Syrian rebels have claimed responsibility – is a sign that the rebellion is gaining strength and the Assad regime is cracking. I certainly hope so, but it's important for us to admit that we actually know very little about what is going on in Syria.
Naturally, our hearts are with the rebels and the Free Syrian Army, so when we hear reports about this bombing, we hope it is a sign of their growing reach and effectiveness. But we don't really know much about the circumstances. Is the use of suicide bombing, for example, a sign of the greater involvement of Islamic jihadis?
Similarly, when we hear about a massacre, such as reports last week surrounding events in Hama province, we naturally assume that it has been done by the Syrian military in the most brutal possible way.
Editor's Note: Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning in the US State Department (2009-2011), is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. For more from Slaughter, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Anne-Marie Slaughter.
By Anne-Marie Slaughter, Project Syndicate
On February 1, the United Nations Security Council met to consider the Arab League’s proposal to end the violence in Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represented the United States. Midway through her remarks, she began speaking not to the Syrian ambassador, who was in the room, or even the Syrian government, but directly to the Syrian people. She said that change in Syria would require Syrians of every faith and ethnicity to work together, protecting and respecting the rights of minorities.
Addressing those minorities, she continued: “We do hear your fears, and we do honor your aspirations. Do not let the current regime exploit them to extend this crisis.” She told Syria’s business, military, and other leaders that they must recognize that their futures lie with the state, not with the regime. “Syria belongs to its 23 million citizens, not to one man or his family.” FULL POST
Stefano Nesi may just be the next big name in Italian couture fashion merchandising. No, he’s not a designer about to grace Milan’s runways during international fashion week. He’s actually a graduate economics student, turned carpet salesman, turned cell phone entrepreneur. And his legacy? The New Generation Mobile (NGM) empire, complete with a deluxe line of phones customized to a range of possible consumer demographics. Whether you’re a customer of the bestselling ‘Vanity line’ phone or inclined to buy the Van Gogh Bluetooth-enabled device, Nesi has found a way to seamlessly cater to his diverse clientele network, and perhaps more importantly, to all of their illicit needs. FULL POST
You can never get tired of the adventures of He-Man, Vladimir Putin. One day the Russian prime minister is shooting whales with a crossbow, the next day he's a judo expert. You've seen him shirtless and flexing his muscles. You've also seen him diving into the sea to discover treasure.
What about President Medvedev, the other half of the Russian ruling duo? Don't worry, the Kremlin isn't ignoring him. They've just released this video on the president's web site. Medvedev is playing the macho sport of...badminton. The message is clear – Putin gets to brandish crossbows, Medvedev gets to hit a birdie or a shuttlecock. Very macho, indeed.
The cruel comparisons don't end there. We found this picture at a doll exhibition in Moscow. Yes, it's a decidedly nerdy Medvedev, tourist camera and all, right beside a warrior-like Vladimir Putin. We get it, Kremlin spin department. We know who's really the boss.
Editor's Note: Jeffrey D. Sachs is Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals. For more from Sachs, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Project Syndicate
The past half-century has been the age of electronic mass media. Television has reshaped society in every corner of the world. Now an explosion of new media devices is joining the TV set: DVDs, computers, game boxes, smart phones, and more. A growing body of evidence suggests that this media proliferation has countless ill effects.
The United States led the world into the television age, and the implications can be seen most directly in America’s long love affair with what Harlan Ellison memorably called “the glass teat.” In 1950, fewer than 8% of American households owned a TV; by 1960, 90% had one. That level of penetration took decades longer to achieve elsewhere, and the poorest countries are still not there. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Sarah Stillman, a visiting scholar at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, is the recipient of their inaugural Reporting Award. She recently published The Invisible Army in The New Yorker. Check out her website here.
By Sarah Stillman – Special to CNN
There is something about pretty white girls, bloody knives and the slightest whiff of sex that gets the international news machine humming like nothing else. All three factors merged explosively Monday in a crowded appeals court in Perugia, Italy. There, before several hundred journalists and other spectators, American college student Amanda Knox, 24, was cleared of murdering her study-abroad roommate, Meredith Kercher, in a sexually-motivated crime four years ago. Already, feature film rights to Knox’s story are flying, and book publishers, too, are salivating.
Until recently, the prevailing explanation for “Foxy Knoxy’s” guilt had been a surreal one. A game of rough sex went terribly wrong that evening in 2007, alleged Italian prosecutors. The young American student, her boyfriend and a local immigrant man were behind the perverse ordeal - or so echoed tabloids and reputable papers on both sides of the Atlantic - ending up in Kercher’s bloody death.
This orgy-centered narrative was bandied about by lawyers in the Italian courtroom, as were terms like “she-devil” and “witch.” But was any of it true? After four years of Knox’s incarceration based on an increasingly shaky set of extracted confessions and problematic forensic evidence, prosecutors’ made-for-late-night version of the crime has finally been snuffed this week. Knox, now officially freed, is heading home to Seattle.
All this has left the press to ask, somewhat sheepishly: were mainstream theories about Knox’s guilt driven primarily, as Slate.com’s Katie Crouch argued last month, by our collective lust for a kinky tale? FULL POST