CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Madeline Earp

Madeline Earp is senior researcher for CPJ’s Asia Program. She has studied Mandarin in China and Taiwan, and graduated with a master’s in East Asian studies from Harvard. Follow her on Twitter @cpjasia and Facebook @ CPJ Asia Desk.

2012


Blog   |   China, Taiwan

Taiwanese media sale could threaten press freedom

In this image made on April 27, rival Taiwan newspapers Apple Daily, top, and The China Times, bottom, are seen depicting their owners in a fight to control key Taiwan media outlets. (AP)

A media buyout in Taiwan which would put independent news outlets critical of China into the hands of a pro-Beijing media tycoon is cause for concern for the island's press. Jimmy Lai, the outspoken mogul behind Hong Kong-based Next Media and the Apple Daily tabloid, is selling his Taiwan holdings to a group of businessmen that includes Tsai Eng-meng, whose China Times Media group is supportive of China, according to local and international news reports.

Blog   |   China

Confusion grows around missing Tibetan monk filmmaker

Tibetans protest in Rongwo township in western China's Qinghai province November 9, calling for freedom from Chinese rule. (AP)

Not unusually, an already confusing situation in Tibet just got worse. Twenty-seven Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against Chinese this month alone, according to Human Rights Watch. That's almost one a day. Against this chaotic backdrop, Chinese authorities have issued an arrest order for a missing monk who helped film a 2008 documentary about life in Tibet, according to his film company, Filming for Tibet.

CPJ supporters will know that we just honored self-taught Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen with an International Press Freedom Award, recognizing his courage documenting life under Chinese rule with full knowledge that he would face severe repercussions (he is serving a six-year jail term--you can join our petition for his release here). So we've been following with concern the latest reports that his assistant on that project, the monk Jigme Gyatso, has been missing, reportedly detained, since September.

Blog   |   China

What China's new leadership means for press freedom

A mall's screen shows new Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping in Beijing Thursday. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Like many China watchers, we at CPJ have been struggling to interpret obscure floor markings and tie colors on display in Beijing as new Communist Party leaders were appointed in a rare leadership hand-off today. The names of the top seven are no longer in doubt. But the real question everyone's asking is: What does it mean (for press freedom)? 

Blog   |   China

Tibetan voices censored around China's Party Congress

Reports of a massive surveillance operation in Tibet and harassment of journalists covering Tibetan issues cast a shadow over eagerly anticipated leadership appointments expected tomorrow in Beijing.

Blog   |   China

In China, kids ask the tough questions at Party Congress

Eleven-year-old Zhang Jiahe asks a question during the 18th National Party Congress (NPC) in Beijing. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

When a nation's most outspoken journalists are 11-year-olds, is it a good sign for the future? On the one hand, they might grow up to ask probing questions. On the other hand, they might end up following the path taken by their older peers and stick to scripted exchanges.

November 13, 2012 2:18 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

China's Xi Jinping unseen, unsearchable

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping has not been seen in public since Sept. 1. (Reuters/How Hwee Young)

It was only a matter of time before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's physical absence from the public view was accompanied by his disappearance from cyberspace. The characters "Jinping" from his name were censored today from searches of Sina's microblog service Weibo, according to the Fei Chang Dao blog. Where else but China does a deficiency of information about a nonappearance become a story worth deleting?

So is there a story or isn't there? International news reports say that Xi, President Hu Jintao's expected successor, has not been seen in public since Sept. 1, and missed a Sept.  5 meeting scheduled with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That was either a snub, a swimming injury, a stroke, or an assassination attempt, depending on who you talk to. Xi has missed other appointments too, though the full extent of his truancy remains unclear. 

September 12, 2012 7:08 PM ET

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Blog   |   India

Shooting investigation stalls in India

CPJ has been monitoring the investigation into the shooting attack on Arunachal Times journalist Tongam Rina outside her office in Itanagar, capital of Arunachal Pradesh state, which left her hospitalized in critical condition this July. Her recovery is progressing, slowly but surely. The police inquiry, however, is not. 

September 11, 2012 5:55 PM ET

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Blog   |   China, Denmark, Germany, USA

Thorning's chance to press China for media freedom

Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is in China this week to meet with top leaders, according to international news reports. CPJ's Advocacy and Communications Associate Magnus Ag and Senior Asia Program Researcher Madeline Earp co-wrote an op-ed calling on Thorning--as she is called in the Danish press--to raise the issue of press freedom. An edited version ran in the Danish newspaper Politiken today.

Speaking truthfully to China on its repression of human rights can be a tricky endeavor in diplomatic affairs, but Helle Thorning-Schmidt has a prime opportunity to raise press freedom on her trip to China. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not give the issue public priority during their visits earlier this month, but as Thorning meets with top Communist Party leaders and addresses a World Economic Forum meeting in Tianjin, the opportunity must not be wasted.

Blog   |   India

India's clumsy Internet crackdown

Residents of India's northeast crowd a railway station as they flee ethnic violence. (AP/Anupam Nath)

Indian Internet advocates and journalists are in an uproar this week over the news that the government has blocked access to around 300 websites, pages, and social media accounts in an effort to quell communal violence in the turbulent northeast. The rationale is that inflammatory online content has fanned tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in states including Assam, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra, contributing to a mass exodus from the region and violence in other cities. The offending content included fabricated images of violence against Muslims, apparently circulated to incite retaliatory attacks, according to news reports.

August 22, 2012 5:02 PM ET

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Blog   |   Burma, China, Japan

Yamamoto's death reflects Japan's media reach, duty

Japanese reporter Mika Yamamoto was killed after being caught in gunfire in Aleppo, Syria. (AFP/NHK News)

My colleagues and I were saddened to learn of the death of Mika Yamamoto, a Japan Press video and photo journalist who was killed while covering clashes in Aleppo, Syria, on Monday. The moment was all the more poignant because of the similarities with two other Japanese journalist fatalities: Kenji Nagai of APF News in Burma in 2007 and Hiro Muramoto of Reuters in Thailand in 2010. As with Yamamoto, Nagai and Muramoto were photojournalists covering conflict between anti-government elements and government troops in foreign countries.

Blog   |   China, Taiwan

Censors stymie reporting on China's biggest news stories

The Taiwanese flag was obscured or erased in some Chinese publications that published photos like this one, of activists being arrested by Japanese police as they  landed on islands claimed by China, Japan, and Taiwan. (AP/Yomiuri Shimbun, Masataka Morita)

It's a big news day in China, and state-controlled media are purposely dropping the ball to escape controversy and censorship. 

Blog   |   China, Japan

Japan releases Chinese journalists--China's up next

Chinese activists are escorted as they disembark from a Japan Coast Guard patrol ship. (Reuters/Kyodo)

It's not often we at CPJ find ourselves calling on other countries to release Chinese journalists from detention. But that's just what happened yesterday. Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV contacted us to say that two of their journalists were among a group of 14 arrested by Japanese authorities over a disputed territory in the East China Sea. For once, we found ourselves in accordance with Chinese authorities, who called for the "unconditional and immediate release" of all 14, according to Reuters

August 17, 2012 2:11 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Umbrellas cast shadow over 'open' trial in China

A spectator is surrounded by journalists Thursday after exiting the Hefei City Intermediate People's Court where the trial of Gu Kailai for murder takes place. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

We cover all kinds of censorship here at CPJ. Recently we documented the cunning application of scissors to prevent readers from accessing China-related articles in hard copy magazines. But it's been a while since we've had chance to write about one favored implement of information control in China: the umbrella. 

August 9, 2012 3:44 PM ET

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Blog   |   China, UK

Viewing the London Olympics coverage from China

Chinese propaganda officials must be thrilled that they're not responsible for the Olympics coverage in the British papers. Back during the Beijing Games, they worked hard to censor unrest and dissatisfaction in the domestic media. Reports of China's press freedom and human rights abuses were blocked, the kind of information control idiomatically referred to as "harmonizing."

July 27, 2012 2:09 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Propaganda officials miss the boat on 'China's Katrina'

Severe flooding in parts of China has left numerous dead and missing. (Reuters)

Chinese journalists are questioning government propaganda due to conflicting reports of the death toll following Saturday's devastating flooding in Beijing. Like the Wenzhou train crash and the Sichuan earthquake, the tragedy has galvanized mainstream and online journalists--and the official narrative is crumbling under their scrutiny.

July 26, 2012 4:59 PM ET

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Blog   |   Maldives

#Maldives media debate unfolds on Twitter

MDP protesters demonstrate outside the Maldivian High Commission in Colombo. (AFP/Lakruwan Wanniarachchi)

It started at 6:34 p.m. Monday. Abdulla Riyaz (@riyazabdulla), whose Twitter bio describes him as commissioner of the Maldives Police Service (MPS), published the following on his personal account: "MPS decides NOT to cooperate to Raajje TV [sic]. A statement will be released today."

Blog   |   China

Chinese censors move staff from outspoken papers

Xi Jinping's youth is the subject of an article that may be related to a newspaper editor's reassignment. Xi is expected to be China's next president. (AP/Jason Lee)

Top figures at two outspoken newspapers in China were shuffled or suspended this week, according to online news reports.

Blog   |   China

China's diverse censors

Attempts to rein in microblogs like Sina Weibo are a huge part of China's sophisticated information control strategy these days. However, news reports last week serve as a reminder that propaganda authorities also rely on methods that are more old school. 

Blog   |   Maldives

Maldives media offer first-hand accounts

Violent clashes between police and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protesters continued in the streets of the capital, Malé, on Thursday night, according to international news reports. You can read CPJ's news alert on journalists swept up in the unrest--and background on the demonstrations--here, and some lively discussion on the situation here.

Blog   |   Maldives

The Maldives backslides on press freedom

Maldivian riot police clash with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Nasheed in Male in March. (AFP)

CPJ has been watching the Maldives with concern since its first democratically-elected President Mohamed Nasheed relinquished power in February following what he describes as a military coup. New President Mohamed Waheed Hassan says Nasheed's resignation was voluntary and refuted criticism that his rule marked a return to the ways of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a dictator notorious for jailing his critics, according to CPJ research.  Yet press freedom is deteriorating under Hassan with the rise of partisan political strife and religious conservatism. 

Blog   |   China

Shallow victory for China's journalists, protesters

A police officer stands guard as protesters gather in the city of Shifang. (Reuters/Petar Kujundzic)

Shi Junrong, Xi'an Evening News bureau chief in the city of Wei'an, ran into trouble recently after he reported on the costly brand of luxury cigarettes favored by local officials. He announced on his microblog that the paper suspended him soon after, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia.

July 5, 2012 1:51 PM ET

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Blog   |   China, UK, USA

The New York Times takes on China's censors

Well, that didn't take long. Just days after The New York Times' soft launch of its Chinese-language edition and accompanying microblog accounts, Berkeley-based China Digital Times website reports that the @nytchinese Sina Weibo feed is no longer accessible in China, along with two accounts hosted by Netease and Sohu. We couldn't pull them up this morning from New York, either.

Blog   |   China

What China's Weibo censorship does, and does not, reveal

A flurry of research on Weibo censorship underscores what we already know about the Chinese company Sina's microblog service--with a few surprises thrown in. 

June 28, 2012 4:01 PM ET

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Blog   |   Philippines

Al-Arabiya news team missing in the Philippines

Baker Abdulla Atyani (AP/Nickee Butlangan)

CPJ is monitoring with concern the news coverage of Baker Abdulla Atyani, a Pakistan-based Jordanian Al-Arabiya TV journalist, and his two Philippine crew members, Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela, who have been unaccounted for since June 12.

Atyani, Letrero, and Vela left their hotel in Jolo, in the southern Philippines, to interview a commander for the militant Abu Sayyaf, a banned Islamic separatist group in the region, according to local and international news reports. The three refused offers of a security detail from local authorities, the reports said.

They have not returned. Various news accounts report them as "missing," "kidnapped," and a link between Abu Sayyaf and Al-Qaeda.

Blog   |   Bangladesh

Bangladesh backsliding on press freedom

Bangladeshi opposition supporters demonstrate in Dhaka on March 12 against an amendment introduced by the ruling party which scraps caretaker governments during elections. (AP/Aijaz Rahi)

"Bangladeshi democracy [may be] doomed to more of the same," International Crisis Group wrote in a recent commentary. They are describing a longstanding pattern of antagonism between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), which the Crisis Group describes as "a pernicious cycle of zero-sum politics." If the political situation descends into unrest, journalists covering it will suffer. 

Blog   |   China

In China, press rights equal press control

A police officer films members of the press gathered outside the Beijing hospital where Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was staying on May 3. (AFP/Ed Jones)

China's state news agency Xinhua published the full text of the state council's National Human Rights Action Plan 2012-15 on Monday. There is no section dedicated to press freedom. But the most striking omissions can be found in the text itself.

Blog   |   India

In India, imprisoned journalist's plea for help

The New Delhi-based Tehelka magazine published an open letter by imprisoned freelance journalist Lingaram Kodopi on Monday. Kodopi, one of the two journalists CPJ documented in prison in India on December 1, 2011, has been held without charge since September 2011 as a suspected associate of insurgent Maoists in Chhattisgarh. His supporters believe he faces harassment for documenting police violence in the region.

June 5, 2012 1:13 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

23 years after Tiananmen, China is still paying

A police officer patrols as part of heavy security at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. (AFP/Mark Ralston)

The annual crackdown on commemorations of the June 4 anniversary of the brutal suppression of student-led demonstrations based in Tiananmen Square in 1989 Beijing is under way, according to Agence France-Presse. What's concerning is the number of writers and activists for whom "crackdown" is the new normal.

May 31, 2012 2:23 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Sina 'information credit score' restricts Weibo users

An Internet user visits a Sina Weibo site. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Sina's Twitter-like microblog service Weibo has released new guidelines to restrict users who share banned content, according to international news reports. It's the first time such guidelines target users who adopt puns, homonyms, and other veiled references to discuss censored news stories without using keywords on the propaganda department's blacklist, the reports said. 

May 29, 2012 4:10 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Anti-foreign attitudes bode ill for China correspondents

The story of Al-Jazeera English correspondent Melissa Chan's expulsion from China has a disturbing coda. 

Blog   |   China

Chinese microblog regulates, suspends users--again

Several Internet users in China are now unable to access Weibo, the popular microblog platform. (Reuters)

Pity those of us who monitor the ups and downs of China's popular microblog platform, Sina Weibo. For every story its users spread in defiance of local censorship, there follows a clampdown. Whether it's the latest strike against rumors, or real name registration, or newly banned keywords, there's always another restriction in the works as the service struggles to keep a lid on sensitive conversations without driving away its user base. "China tightens grip on social media," we might report, as the Financial Times did in April. And last October. (The U.K.-based newspaper also noted China's grip tightening on lawyers in March.) It's not that these headlines are misleading. They simply show how difficult it is to illustrate the grip that always tightens, but never quite suffocates.

Blog   |   China

China ducks questions about Al-Jazeera expulsion

In a press conference today, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Hong Lei, above, evaded questions about Al-Jazeera being denied journalist visas. (AP/Andy Wong)

"The Beijing branch of Al-Jazeera is still functioning normally."

This was not an auspicious reaction to the news that Al-Jazeera English has closed its Beijing bureau after being refused journalist visas. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Hong Lei's responses at today's press conference did not improve from there, according to a partial transcript published by Voice of America. His explanations for the ministry's refusal to renew credentials for the channel's Beijing correspondent Melissa Chan were a mixture of denial and obfuscation. (Al-Jazeera's Arabic-language bureau continues to operate with several accredited journalists, according to The Associated Press.)

Blog   |   China, USA

China's media conditions threaten Chen Guangcheng

The battle over blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng's freedom and well-being is a battle over information. Both Chinese and U.S. officials are trying to spin the story their way. A few activists and media claim to speak for Chen, and in China's anti-press environment they are putting themselves at risk. Direct interviews with the man himself are hard to come by.

Blog   |   Bangladesh, Belarus, Burma, China, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, Nepal, North Korea

China not most censored, but may be most ambitious

Chinese official Jia Qinglin, fifth from left, hands over keys to the China-built African Union headquarters to AU Chairman and Equatorial Guinea President Theodoro Obiang. (AFP/Tony Karumba)

China didn't make the cut for our 10 most censored countries. While the Chinese Communist Party's censorship apparatus is notorious, journalists and Internet users work hard to overcome the restrictions. Nations like Eritrea and North Korea lack that dynamism.

Blog   |   China

Blind lawyer spurs news blackout in China

News of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng has been censored for months. International news reports of his escape last week from incarceration in his home in Linyi, Shandong--apparently to U.S. protection, although his whereabouts remain unclear--has only intensified that censorship. That is unlikely to stop discussion among those familiar with Chen's case.

April 30, 2012 4:20 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Chinese censors target tomatoes amid Bo Xilai scandal

(AP/Muhammed Muheisen)

Chongqing hotpot = King of the Southwest = King Who Pacifies the West = Minister of Yu = Tomato

What do these words have in common? They are all coded references to Bo Xilai, the disgraced former Communist Party leader in southwestern Chongqing, and they were all censored in China on Tuesday, according to the Berkeley-based China Digital Times website. Bo was removed from his post in March, and state media reported Wednesday he had been suspended from the governing Politburo and Party Central Committee. Propaganda officials censored speculation about Bo's downfall and its implications for political stability, so Internet users adopted terms like the ones above to avoid triggering keyword filters. Now these, too, have been blacklisted, according to China Digital Times. Will this senseless battle to hide information ever end?

April 11, 2012 2:42 PM ET

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Blog   |   India

Mumbai police, media have failed Jyotirmoy Dey

The confessed mastermind of the murder of crime reporter Jyotirmoy Dey, whose June 2011 funeral is shown here, remains free. (AP/Rajanish Kakade)

New Delhi-based Tehelka weekly news magazine has published a scathing indictment of the police investigation into the 2011 killing of Mumbai crime reporter Jyotirmoy Dey--and of the Indian media's coverage of it. Beneath the allegations and the rumors, we still don't know exactly why he was killed, while the self-confessed mastermind is a fugitive from justice. Meanwhile, a second journalist has been indicted for the crime on apparently flimsy evidence.  

Blog   |   Philippines

In the Philippines, two murders that should be solved

Journalist Gerardo Ortega's wife looks at his picture. (AFP/Noel Celis)

The investigation into the notorious murder of muckraking Philippine journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat in Mindanao is now seven years old. A separate hunt for conspirators in the January 2011 killing of Palawan radio journalist Gerardo Ortega is just getting started. The Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa City issued arrest warrants against three suspects in the Ortega case on Tuesday, and one has been arrested, according to the local Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. But both cases should already have been solved. 

Blog   |   China

How to stop rumors in China: Stop censorship

Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai's departure has left journalists with the difficult task of reporting on unconfirmed reports.

The sacking of Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai has sparked some entertaining gossip this month, leaving journalists covering China with the difficult task of reporting on unconfirmed reports. The Chinese government blames the international media, not its own lack of transparency and comprehensive censorship apparatus, for the burgeoning rumors. 

March 27, 2012 2:09 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

As Chinese politician censored, exiled journalist triumphs

A Chinese woman carries a protrait of Bo Xilai, until recently a rising political star with little tolerance for critics. (AFP)

The political ouster of Bo Xilai, Chinese Communist Party top dog in the major southwestern city of Chongqing, has been making headlines around the world. Bo notoriously silenced critics like investigative journalist Jiang Weiping, but the shoe is now on the other foot, at least for a while.

Many China watchers are familiar with Bo because he was in line for a position in the inner circle of Chinese politics, until state media announced his replacement last week. CPJ has reported on Bo for different reasons. Jiang, CPJ's 2001 International Press Freedom Award winner, spent five years behind bars in China, after revealing several corruption scandals involving Bo, a former mayor of Dalian city and then governor of the province, Liaoning, where Jiang worked.

March 19, 2012 3:27 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Four years on, wife calls for Tibetan filmmaker's release

Lhamo Tso has traveled to Europe and America to publicize her husband Dhondup
Wangchen's imprisonment. (CPJ)

Lhamo Tso has not spoken to her husband Dhondup Wangchen since March 17, 2008. She, their four children, and his elderly parents live in India, and hear of him only when his sister visits the Xichuan Prison in Qinghai province, western China, where he is serving six years. Through glass, he passes on the news: He's contracted hepatitis, though the prison won't let the family pay for proper medical treatment. He's working less -- promoted from 17-hour days in a brick kiln to manufacturing acupuncture needles. His two lawyers have been told their Beijing-based firm will be put out of business if they continue to work on his case.

March 16, 2012 3:48 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Journalists at work in China: Tibet and Beijing edition

A hostess fills tea cups for delegates inside the Tibet room at the Great Hall of the People before the Tibetan delegation meets as part of the National People's Congress in Beijing Wednesday. (AP/Andy Wong)

China media analysts are looking to two significant events to shape coverage this month: The anniversary of a failed uprising in Tibet, and the annual meetings of China's top political bodies, the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing. Journalists at work in both areas attracted coverage of their own today--but from vastly different angles.

Blog   |   China

On board the election bus in China's Wukan

A villager stands near ballot writing booths at a school playground in Wukan village in Guangdong province Friday, one day before the election of a seven-member village committee. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

Village elections taking place this weekend in southern Guangdong province's Wukan illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of China's media control. Censorship measures have not prevented strong domestic and international coverage of the democratic process. But has official tolerance of dissenting views increased since leaders cracked down on the attempted Jasmine revolution last year? Or is Wukan not a real challenge to one-party rule, and therefore OK to write about?

March 2, 2012 2:24 PM ET

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Blog   |   China

Ethnic violence renews information clampdown in China

Tibetans gather on the side of a street in Nangqian county, China's Qinghai province, to protest Chinese rule. (AP)

Two months into 2012, all-too-familiar stories are emerging from China's troubled minority regions, Tibet and Xinjiang. Following riots against Chinese rule in 2008 and 2009, violence and its corollaries--increased security and censorship--have become commonplace. Independent bloggers and journalists who cover the unrest pay a high price: Over half the 27 journalists documented by CPJ in Chinese prisons on December 1, 2011, came from ethnic minorities. Now we're bracing ourselves for the next wave of arrests.

Blog   |   Fiji

Fiji's emergency ends, but media oppression continues

Fiji's military leadership on Saturday lifted emergency regulations it had been using to stymie the country's press since 2009, according to local government websites. Good news? Maybe. Yet the regime still restricts the media, and anyone else who dares to question the legitimacy of the 2006 coup that brought its leaders to power--suggesting they are more concerned about appearances than press freedom.

January 11, 2012 4:26 PM ET

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