Surveillance: a symptom of unchecked power

As the world recognizes the Day Against Cyber-Censorship, DW looks at a pair of countries that have long struggled with the issue. Internet users in Iran and China have known for years that they are under surveillance.

Revelations from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden made it clear to people around the world that their digital communications are being tracked and saved by the US spy agency.

That was one of the reasons why the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ were included on the 2014 list of Enemies of the Internet published on Wednesday (12.03.2014) by Reporters Without Borders.


It’s been a tough year for freedom of speech on the Internet

“The mass surveillance methods employed, many of them exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, are all the more intolerable because they will be used and indeed are already being used by authoritarians countries such as Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to justify their own violations of freedom of information,” the report said. “How will so-called democratic countries be able to press for the protection of journalists if they adopt the very practices they are criticizing authoritarian regimes for?”

Inclusion on the press freedom group’s list put the US and UK in the company of regimes in Tehran and Beijing, which have both come under heavy international criticism for their long-time censorship and surveillance of the Internet.


Iran: Fluctuation on the surface

Despite some minor loosening of restrictions under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, authorities in Iran have continued to develop a “national Internet” – the so-called “halal Internet” – that would cut off access to material deemed unacceptable, the report said.

“There have been fluctuations on the surface, including President Rouhani using Twitter, but the depth of the problem is intact,” Arash Abadpour, a Toronto-based Iranian blogger, researcher and engineer, told DW. “The filtering regime is a reality, the National Internet is creeping in, and online activity is still criminalized.”


A national ‘halal’ network could remove Iranians from the wider, public Internet

Filtering content, controlling Internet service providers, intercepting communications, staging cyber-attacks and imprisoning bloggers and Internet activists are common practice in Iran, Reporters Without Borders wrote.

The general reaction is to describe how horrific the National Internet is, and everyone calls for it to be abandoned,” said Abadpour, a jury member of The Bobs, DW’s award for online activism. “How this national project is going to be stopped is not known.”


China: Self-censorship holds users in check

Such a national network, which provides services to people in Iran without connecting them to the wider, public Internet, could be developed with help of the Chinese Internet authorities responsible for creating the country’s Great Firewall, which for years has censored or filtered online material from Internet users in China.

“Bloggers and journalists have a general idea of what content is permitted and what is banned, but the ‘red lines’ that must not be crossed can change at any time,” Reporters Without Borders wrote in its report.

At a time when messages can cross the Internet nearly instantaneously and when Internet data traffic is growing, the government does not have the resources to monitor all Internet activity, which makes self-censorship especially powerful for the Chinese government, according to Hu Yong, a Chinese media critic and jury member of The Bobs.

“The threat of shutdown – either of certain products and services or the entire business – has caused Internet companies to employ a significant percentage of their workforce, as well as sophisticated screening algorithms, to comply with this requirement of self-censorship,” Hu told DW, adding that authorities also tell Internet companies what terms, information or content must be deleted or blocked from their services.

In addition to having what Reporters Without Borders calls the world’s most sophisticated Internet censorship system, China is also the world’s biggest prison for online activists – with “at least 70 online information providers currently in prison because of their Internet activities.”


Chinese bloggers and journalists usually know what they can say and what will land them in jail


Unchecked power

We Fight Censorship, a project run by Reporters Without Borders, lists 166 online activists in prison around the world – plus another three killed this year. Statistics like these were among the reasons the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists put cyberspace on its “Risk List” of the places where press freedom was most under threat.

But all the nations listed in the Enemies of the Internet report share one feature: the excesses of surveillance and censorship lie in a few people being able to determine what the public can read, write, and comment on, Abadpour said.

“The problem essentially lies in unchecked power. It doesn’t really matter who has it,” he said. “I would like to see ‘unchecked power’ on the list of enemies of not only the Internet, but the whole of humanity.”


  • Date 12.03.2014







The Bobs Award 2014




届时,网友可以在 Bobs官网投票,选出各奖项的公众奖得主。网上投票将于5月7日结束。






  • (跨语种)最佳博客(Best Blog

该奖项表彰形式及内容出众、 致力于促进和维护人权、 推动公共事务讨论的博客。

  • 最佳技术革新奖(Best Innovation

该奖项针对软件解决方案、 或互联网平台。它们提供技术,来推动社会变迁、促进民主参与。

  • 最佳社会运动奖Best Social Activism

该奖项表彰以典范方式使用社交网络等数字通联技术、 来加强民主、 自由和人权的倡议活动。商业性质的广告和市场宣传不属于评选范围。

  • 记者无疆界奖Reporters Without Borders Award


  • 全球媒体论坛特别奖Global Media Forum Award

该奖项主题配合德国之声全球媒体论坛(Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum)每年度更换。今年的获奖网站应当展示联网、互动与参与对民主进程有多大程度的影响和促进。2014全球媒体论坛主题是“从信息到参与—媒体面 临的挑战”,将于2014年6月30日-7月2日在波恩举行。

  • 最佳原创奖Most Creative & Original

该奖项寻找的是以有创造性和有趣的方式表达严肃话题的网站。也就是说,以创新性、 出人意料的方式处理社会公共话题的网站。网站的视觉效果和艺术设计是评委特别关注的。

  • 中文新媒体奖(People’s Choice for Chinese)

该奖项特别关注那些为公开讨论作出贡献、 分析和评论时事的网站。不过,除博客、社交媒体、 网站、网络项目外,播客、 视频频道等也可参加本奖项的评选。






中国/媒体 -

发表日期 2014年 2月 09日 – 更新日期 2014年 2月 09日


作者 法广









China’s market-oriented media face a precarious future

Under Pressure

China’s market-oriented media face a precarious future

By Hu Yong

Two-thousand-and-three was a milestone year for investigative journalism in China. Some media organizations had been transformed from Communist Party propaganda tools into market-oriented news outlets. The Party line had weakened while market influences strengthened, leaving many journalists with an expectation of a new wave of semi-independent journalism.

There had just been a change of leadership, with Hu Jintao taking over as president. In response to the SARS pandemic, the central government launched new laws and new accountability systems, igniting hopes for responsible and transparent governance. Market-oriented news outlets like the weekly magazine Caijing and the daily newspaper Southern Metropolis News expanded coverage.

In April of 2003, Southern Metropolis News published a story about Sun Zhigang, 27, a graphic designer who was picked up by police during a random identity check and died in custody, after being attacked by staff and inmates. The story caused a national outcry, the first mass protest in China’s budding online space. The detention and repatriation regulation, under which Sun had been held, was abolished, and a decade of rights advocacy began. The market-oriented media and new private online ventures opened up an alternative space where people could express their opinions outside official discourse.

Ten years later, with Xi Jinping now president, those advances are being reversed. In December, Chinese authorities charged free speech activists who protested outside the Southern Media Group’s offices with public order offenses. The media group—which owns Southern Weekly, one of the most liberal newspapers in China—has been criticized for allegedly providing evidence to the police that the protests were interfering with their operations. The claim, which many believe is false, seems designed to tarnish the paper’s moral image.

The press is under political as well as economic pressure. The experience of Chen Yongzhou is a case in point. A respected journalist working for Guangdong’s New Express, Chen was arrested in October after he had reported alleged corruption at a state-owned construction equipment company. As the New Express and other media outlets were showing solidarity with Chen, he confessed on TV that he had been bribed to report false information. Though some feared Chen had been tortured into making a confession, he and the New Express went from being victims to being loathed across China.

For market-oriented media, cost cutting and declining advertising revenues have contributed to a lack of newsroom protection and a drop in professionalism and ethical standards. Economic interests are pushing aside the public interest. Now, just as a decade ago, market-oriented media face a turning point, this time for the worse.

 Communist Party outlets will continue to receive financial support from the Party itself. Private online media are boldly exploring new applications, new platforms, and new services to meet the needs of a new generation of consumers. But the space market-oriented media have traditionally occupied is being squeezed by government censorship on the one hand and declining economic viability on the other. The golden age is over. The next decade, if there is one, will be precarious.






Li Chengpeng2013年Bobs(跨语种)最佳博客奖得主李承鹏


十周年之际,德国之声国际博客大赛正式更名为Bobs新媒体大赛。随着网络的飞速变迁,Bobs的视野早已从博客扩展至多种多样的网络形式。2014年2月5日起,网友可在 Bobs官网上推荐博客、微博客、网站、网络项目、网络社会运动、播客、视频频道等等——我们满怀期待,希望认识和了解14种参赛语言、 来自世界许多地区的网络项目和人们。


今年,我们欢迎六位新的国际评委:土耳其的萨卡(Erkan Saka),危地马拉的阿维拉(Renata Avila),巴西的尤塞夫(Alexandre Youssef),喀麦隆的金贝斯(Florian Ngimbis),乌克兰的休玛(Victoria Siumar)和印度的拉克沙内(Rohini Lakshané)。14种参赛语言的评委将在柏林举行的评审会议上介绍自己语言的入围者,并选出6个跨语种大奖的评委奖得主。



  • (跨语种)最佳博客
  • (跨语种)最佳技术创新
  • (跨语种)最佳社会运动
  • (跨语种)记者无疆界奖
  • (跨语种)全球媒体论坛特别奖
  • (跨语种)最佳原创奖
  • 中文新媒体奖


Gewinner des Bobs Awards 2013Bobs颁奖典礼







China Central TV: champion of the people with a blurred picture

November 20, 2013 3:15 am


China Central TV: champion of the people with a blurred picture


By FT reporters


At the end of October, a young journalist in handcuffs, green prison jacket and a freshly shaved head appeared on China Central Television, the state-owned national broadcaster, and confessed to taking bribes in exchange for writing negative articles about a large Chinese company.


Just days earlier, the newspaper that employed Chen Yongzhou, 27, had published front-page banner headlines calling for his release, while human rights groups had mobilised to defend him. But after his admission on national television, the issue quickly died away.


Mr Chen’s is the latest in a series of televised public pre-trial confessions that have aired on the CCTV in recent months and have included British and US citizens being paraded before the camera to admit their crimes.


The performances, reminiscent of an earlier age in which political “struggle sessions” and show trials were the norm, have raised concerns inside China about the damage that they cause to the government’s stated goal of improving the rule of law.


But they have also raised an important question about the role of the state broadcaster and the balance it must strike between being a global media organisation, a commercial moneymaking venture and a political mouthpiece for the ruling Communist party.


The question is increasingly important to multinationals such as Apple, KFC, Volkswagen, Starbucks and Samsung, which have all been targeted in the past year by the broadcaster and accused of varying degrees of malfeasance or unfair practices in the Chinese market.


For major global companies, understanding why they have been singled out and on whose orders is crucial to avoiding one of the most dangerous pitfalls that can befall their businesses in the country.


In a recent book entitled Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television, author Ying Zhu says: “CCTV is full of serious-minded creators who regularly experience bouts of self-doubt, philosophical ambivalence and in some cases clinical depression.”


She also describes “certain common themes, about ideals distorted or altogether thwarted by commercial and political pressure”.


Founded in 1958 as the country’s first TV station, CCTV did not convert to colour or extend its programming beyond a couple of hours in the evenings until the late 1970s.


As late as 1978, fewer than 10m Chinese people had access to a TV, but today CCTV boasts more than 1bn potential viewers for its 45 channels that broadcast mostly soap operas, historical dramas and variety shows.


The broadcaster now earns billions of dollars a year in advertising revenue and its direct funding from the state accounts for a relatively minor part of its annual budget.


But it remains a vice-ministerial level government department and is always led by a senior Communist party official who has worked his way up through the party propaganda system.


The boss of the network, Hu Zhanfan, raised eyebrows in 2011, not long before he took the job, when he declared that the “first and foremost social responsibility [of journalists] is to serve well as a mouthpiece tool; this is the most core content of the Marxist view of journalism and it is the most fundamental of principles”.


According to current and former CCTV employees, the constant and pervasive censorship and political orders make it easy for individuals to become jaded.


So when they are presented with the opportunity to make money through unethical or, in some cases outright illegal deals, the temptation is heightened by their sense of disillusionment.


“The corruption inside CCTV is extremely serious,” says Hu Yong, an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University and a former CCTV employee. “For example, [CCTV employees] will blackmail interviewees by threatening to expose them publicly or they will become public advocates for their interview subjects in exchange for economic benefits.”


Shi Feike, a senior journalist who once had close ties with CCTV, has a more nuanced view.


“The corruption inside CCTV is not necessarily more serious than in any other monopolistic state-owned enterprise in China,” he says. “There are many highly professional and ethical staff working at CCTV and the situation varies depending on the department, the channel and the individual programme.”


CCTV said: “CCTV has strict requirements regarding its employees’ professional ethics, and employs comprehensive disciplinary measures to restrict their activities.


“No matter if it is reporting on Chinese companies or foreign companies, our station always adheres to the principles of objectivity and fairness.


“If you pay attention to our station’s programming, you will find that our station broadcasts a large quantity of supervision type and exposure type programmes, and most of them are about Chinese domestically-produced products and brands.”


In the wake of serious food and product safety scandals, CCTV has taken on the role of self-appointed public watchdog, with a focus on the transgressions of multinationals operating in China.


In recent weeks, the broadcaster has targeted smartphone maker Samsung for allegedly unfair after-sales policies, while earlier this year it directed similar charges against Apple that prompted the company to apologise to Chinese consumers.


Other companies such as KFC, McDonald’sVolkswagen, and Walmart have all been targeted by similar reports that appear to concentrate less on large Chinese companies, in particular state-owned monopolies that are often derided by consumers for their substandard products and services.


“The reasons for this bias towards reporting [negatively] on foreign companies are complicated; sometimes it is political as in the case of Google, often it is rent-seeking [trying to force large companies to buy advertising or pay bribes] and sometimes it is just the path of least resistance,” says Mr Shi.


“They cannot touch state enterprises because they will be censored so it is much safer to beat up on foreign companies. It will get on air without any trouble [from the censors] and it will gain support from nationalists.”


The negative campaigns do not always have the desired effect.


In late October, CCTV aired a seven-minute segment lambasting Starbucks for overcharging Chinese consumers for its coffee.


With more than 1,000 outlets across China and plans for the country to become its second-largest market after the US by next year, Starbucks wants to avoid a fight with the propaganda apparatus at all costs.


But on this occasion the reports were mostly greeted with derision rather than outrage from the wider public.


“Coffee is not a necessity for life, the price is determined by the market and it is up to Starbucks to charge what it wants,” said one user of China’s Twitter-like Weibo service whose message went viral. “If CCTV really cares about high prices why can’t they pay attention to prices that are actually related to people’s livelihoods?”


Xinwen Lianbo: China’s Top Gun of news

Nowhere is the tension at CCTV between idealism, politics and commercial imperatives more obvious than at 7pm every night on its “Xinwen Lianbo” main news programme, which all regional television stations in China are required to broadcast.

A popular Chinese joke says that if anyone were to rely on this show for their information about the world they would come away with the following impressions:

After the first 10 minutes, which invariably features the activities of senior Communist cadres, they would believe that China’s leaders were all very busy.

The next 10 minutes of the half-hour broadcast would convince them that everyone in China was happy and prosperous, while the final segment would lead them to understand that everybody outside China was living in an abyss of suffering and extreme misery.

The format has barely changed in three decades, and the broadcast remains one of the most important ways for the Chinese government to issue decrees and political messages to the nation.

But in the age of social media, the show has borne the brunt of popular cynicism and ridicule over state control of information.

Ordinary netizens are quick to jump on mistakes or inconsistencies, such as when the show focuses heavily on negative events in western countries but ignores similar stories at home.

In 2011, a report about a new Chinese fighter jet showed the aircraft blowing another one up with a missile but ordinary viewers soon worked out that the footage in the news story was in fact taken from the 1986 Hollywood movie Top Gun and the featured fighter jet was American.


The Court of Netizen Opinion

The Court of Netizen Opinion


By Hu Yong


10.27.2013 09:00


In gauging public opinion, the engagement of Internet users can be misleading


Breaking a long tradition of domination by elite political discourse, the Internet has transformed the concept of public opinion within Chinese society and stands as a platform upon which the average person can spread their beliefs. While it is difficult to view the cacophony of online discussion as wholly representative of the public, such activity is a great improvement from silence.


In recent years, netizens have come to be viewed as representatives of public opinion. Online activity is closely related to certain demographic traits and the most vocal netizens are affluent urban residents. Many of the values expressed online are from a small number of active writers, and there is the so-called “silent majority.” These online deliberations can hardly be taken to be representative of the greater public sphere.


But, for the first time in the long history of China, ordinary people have the opportunity to voice their opinion. The medium of the Internet lends itself to many unique social phenomena, including homogenous clusters of opinion known as the “echo chamber effect”. Such communities often foster greater polarization — an “elite versus grassroots” framework.


For elites, communication must adapt to a new form online. Will this influence how elites transmit their views? The possibility exists. The elites are attempting to use public opinion to add one’s influence, but there is always the risk of giving up one’s independent thinking and judgment. For elites, or for intellectuals in general, they have to be careful not lose their independence in the transition to a different mode of discourse. In the current times, independence means both independent from power and perceived public opinion. This is can be a painful process. Yes, intellectuals must adapt a new form to express themselves online, but this doesn’t mean they need to cater to public opinions in the digital space.




The Quandary China’s Journalists Find Themselves In

The Quandary China’s Journalists Find Themselves In


Reporters can stifle their conscience and take bribes, or risk their lives to expose the truth
By Hu Yong
11.06.2013 19:42

Chen Yong Zhou, a reporter at Guangzhou’s New Express newspaper, was detained in mid-October by police who had come all the way from Hunan Province. They accused the reporter of damaging the reputation and commercial interests of Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Development Co. Ltd., a Hunan construction machinery and sanitation equipment firm about which Chen had reported.

Three days after his arrest things became even more dramatic. As the New Express and other media outlets were all busy showing solidarity with Chen – convinced he was being persecuted for doing his job — the reporter confessed on CCTV that he had been bribed to report false information. Not only was this a slap in the face for all those who rallied to support him, but Chen and New Express suddenly went from being victims to loathed figures across China.

In fact, outraged Chinese have used a particularly insulting term for Chen: “jize,” or prostitute. Though it is vulgar, the name-calling actually nails the crux of the problem. In China, freedom of the press suffers from both money and power.

Journalists like Chen all too often accept dirty money. Five years ago, for example — on China Reporter’s Day — many journalists acted particularly disgracefully when they took hush money to cover up a mine explosion in Shanxi Province. Both actual journalists and others simply posing as reporters rushed to the site, not to report the disaster but to receive the “mouth-sealing fee” the mining company was handing out to conceal the disaster.

Unscrupulous Media

Reporters in China suffer a critical, and dangerous, quandary somewhat unique to their place in the world. Should they go against their conscience and accept bribes, or should they risk their lives to investigate and expose the truth?

Alas, reporters in the country are even more notorious than those unconscionable mining company bosses, who characterize crooked journalists as “a bunch of beggars holding out a rice bowl called news.”

In 2002, 11 journalists accepted bribes to cover up a gold mine disaster in Shanxi, where local authorities and the owner of the unauthorized mine wanted to avoid scrutiny. Instead of going to the mine to cover the incident, these journalists showed up at the offices of the local Communist Party committee and county government because they viewed these places as the real gold mine.

But even if there are some bad apples among Chinese journalists, they are perhaps no less wicked than their employers. In 2007, for example, a reporter named Lan Chengzhang tried blackmailing the owner an illegal mine. He was then beaten to death by the owner’s thugs. After the incident, the newspaper Lan worked for denied that he was a reporter there. The employers for the 11 reporters involved in covering up the major mine disaster in 2002 did the same.

Strictly speaking, these reporters do not conform to the definition of journalists because in China they are often entrusted with multiple duties — such as being ad salesmen and handling publicity — in addition to their editorial tasks. The nature of these multiple functions creates obvious conflicts of interest. And it is the newspapers that arrange their jobs this way.

The truth is that compared to the taker of “mouth-sealing fees,” the state press is much more unscrupulous than the individual journalists on their payrolls. For instance, a few years ago CCTV revealed abuses by Baidu, the major Internet services company whose pay-per-click ad system led to fraud. Baidu search results helped send junk information designed to mislead the public. When this was exposed, many people predicted that Baidu would have to pay a fortune to silence CCTV from further reporting.

Sure enough, as Baidu’s chief financial officer, Jennifer Li, later confirmed, Baidu’s “marketing expenses” soared by more than 40 million yuan in the quarter following the scandal. The vast majority of these marketing-related expenses were given to CCTV.

Graft in the press is of course shocking. But it is even worse to silence journalistic endeavors by intimidation. Because legitimate reporters in the mainstream press are always afraid of crossing a red line, crooked reporters are given the opportunity to do bad deeds. China has, unfortunately, too many journalists who either have no backbone or zero dignity.

At the end of the day the biggest disgrace is that a large segment of the press in China has lost any sense of shame. This is a disgrace not only for the press but also for all of society. In today’s commercialized society, there is nothing that cannot be bought. Officials can be bribed, as can journalists and their employers.

In the novel I’m Liu Yuejin, by Liu Zhenyun, a policeman named Old Xie often arrests the bad guys he does not know while letting the ones he does know go free. Though he has a conscience, he comforts himself with the knowledge that “all crows are black.” In other words, evildoers and evil deeds are everywhere anyway. Too many of China’s journalists embrace this same philosophy.


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