by Genevieve Long for The Foreign Policy Association
In a country like China that is already so restrictive of press freedoms, it’s surprising that the grip of control could be tightened any further. Yet, according to a new press release from the non-governmental organization Freedom House, that’s exactly what is happening.
Freedom House says it is “dismayed by new Chinese Internet restrictions,” which include stricter rules about video sharing websites. The measure follows closely on the heels of a gruesome video that was circulated last week which contained graphic footage of alleged persecution of Tibetans. The video, which was widely circulated, could have been linked to Chinese authorities blocking YouTube.
Of particular concern to Freedom House is a section of the new restrictions which reads:
“The regulations specifically mention videos from “netizen reporters,” who have played a critical role in informing Chinese citizens about police brutality, the melamine scandal, and the lethal consequences of corruption surrounding the Sichuan earthquake.”
Netizen is defined by the dictionary as a blending of the two words citizen and net. So a netizen reporter, under China’s repressive laws governing the dissemination of information and control of information, could be a crucial link between the public and information. Even in the face of the facts that a netizen reporter has no media affiliation or fact-checker or editor, they would still be potentially doing what has been referred to in new media jargon as “acts of journalism”.
The gathering and dissemination of information under the current circumstances in China, even without editorial content or control, could be critical information nonetheless.
Mark Twain once said, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort ‘em as much as you please.” The Chinese people deserve the opportunity to at least have access to the facts, and can then decide what to do with them.
In addition to being a contributing editor for The Epoch Times, Genevieve Long writes the Media and Foreign Policy blog for the Foreign Policy Association, where this piece was first published.