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再见, Al Jazeera
May 8, 2012 3:36 AM   Subscribe

Al Jazeera is closing its Chinese bureau after the authorities have refused to renew its reporters' press credentials and visas [NYT]. The Chinese government's reasons for this aren't clear, but Al Jazeera's recent coverage of China's "black jails" has been less than flattering.
posted by reductiondesign (28 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The NYT says "China Expels Al Jazeera Channel", but according to a Fox News story, they've just expelled a reporter.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:16 AM on May 8, 2012


The Guardian says bureau.
posted by infini at 4:37 AM on May 8, 2012


Wait a minute, I'm citing references for a Fox News story?
posted by infini at 4:38 AM on May 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I suppose it's better when Communist China acts like Communist China.

Why should freedom of speech and freedom of the press be allowed?
Why should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticized?
It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns.
Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the government?


- V.L. Lenin (via Quote Investigator.)

And correct he was. You can't have communism and a free press. This hasn't worked anywhere. Why should communist China allow a foreign news agency - a printing press bought by a bunch of corrupt capitalists - to criticize and embarrass the government of the Chinese workers?
posted by three blind mice at 4:49 AM on May 8, 2012


You can't have communism and a free press.

Piffle. What exists in China, and what you can't have, is an authoritarian regime and a free press.
posted by DU at 4:57 AM on May 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


You can't have communism and a free press. This hasn't worked anywhere.

Has anyone even tried it?
posted by LiteOpera at 4:58 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can't have communism and a free press. This hasn't worked anywhere.

Has anyone even tried it?
Communism and democracy are not inherently opposed.

Totalitarian governments and a free press may be – China has never claimed to have a free press – but then again totalitarianism and democracy are not inherently opposed either.
posted by nickrussell at 5:06 AM on May 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Al-Jazeera English has been closed (with its one reporter). But not Al-Jazeera Arabic.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:22 AM on May 8, 2012


Al-Jazeera English has been closed (with its one reporter). But not Al-Jazeera Arabic.

That's interesting. I know this may sound simplistic, but is it likely that the Chinese authorities will monitor English language press more tightly than that in Arabic? Almost as though they're not bother what is said in Arabic because relatively few Chinese people (especially outside of the Hui) will speak it.
posted by Jehan at 5:45 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think China is a communist state anymore... and clamping down on the press is much harder in a functioning capitalist society, even a totalitarian one like Singapore. Foreign press is easy to identify and clamp down on. It's past time news bureaus started relying on local talent to get the story.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:48 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's also a lot easier to slap local talent in a black jail, so aside from cultural sensitivity issues there's a great convenience factor!
posted by aramaic at 5:58 AM on May 8, 2012


clamping down on the press is much harder in a functioning capitalist society

Well, it's harder to notice. But then again, when you define good in your society by "the rich own everything" (what else would "rule by capital" mean but that?), maybe you have different standards for what constitutes a free press.
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


China has never claimed to have a free press
China's never claimed to be communist either, that's always something the Leninist states were advancing towards or building the conditions for. And that aside, anyone who's actually read any history knows what Deng's 'socialist market economy' was a euphemism for in the post-Mao period.
I understand the expulsion was related to the documentary Al Jazeera made last year referenced in the FPP (that the expelled correspondent wasn't involved in making); not really over familiar with the case but I wonder if AJ was seen as a suitably soft target for a shot across the bows of the foreign media in general, rather than it being something particular to Melissa Chen - the BBC has certainly made films on the black jails too.
posted by Abiezer at 6:23 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


But then again, when you define good in your society by "the rich own everything" (what else would "rule by capital" mean but that?), maybe you have different standards for what constitutes a free press.

It would seem that David Cameron might have something to say about this. At a Chipping Norton set dinner party on a police horse after reading the advance notes.
posted by srboisvert at 6:27 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


what else would "rule by capital" mean but that?

What's that? Capitalarchy?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:41 AM on May 8, 2012


At a Chipping Norton set dinner party on a police horse after reading the advance notes.

I dunno about you, but I do this every couple of weeks. It helps one keep up to speed.
posted by Wolof at 6:45 AM on May 8, 2012


Al-Jazeera English has been closed (with its one reporter). But not Al-Jazeera Arabic.

That's interesting. I know this may sound simplistic, but is it likely that the Chinese authorities will monitor English language press more tightly than that in Arabic? Almost as though they're not bother what is said in Arabic because relatively few Chinese people (especially outside of the Hui) will speak it.
posted by Jehan at 5:45 AM on May 8 [1 favorite +] [!]


Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic have separate editorial and management ( except joined at the very top) structures too. What you get on Arabic is very different from AJE in style, tone, and focus,
posted by Bwithh at 7:04 AM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


CNN, Fox still ok.

Think about that for a minute.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:43 AM on May 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Argh! FFS, Israel is more "communist" than the Chinese. Viktor Belenko, the Soviet MiG pilot, found the U.S. to be more "communist" than the Soviet Union.

Do not conflate communism with totalitarianism. Communism has it's own issues, and like every extreme ideology will ultimately fail - as it has already in China.

FWIW Al-jazeera is one of the most important news organizations on the planet. They complement BBC tremendously, and by being as good as they are, help force everyone else to be better.
posted by Xoebe at 7:59 AM on May 8, 2012


sometimes I really love those commies!!
posted by leaseagreement at 8:13 AM on May 8, 2012


Argh! FFS, Israel is more "communist" than the Chinese...

I think it depends which kind of communism you are talking about.

Ideal Communism: classless, status-less society in which the needs of everyone are advanced in equal measure; health insurance for everyone; shiny happy people dancing beneath a rainbow...

Real Communism: The attempt of transitioning to Ideal Communism gone horribly awry; no freedom of speech, press etc.; political prisoners rotting away in gulags; a ruling party with rampant nepotism;

Isreal might be closer to Ideal Communism than China, but clearly China is closer to "Real Communism" than Israel, although not nearly as close as, say, the Soviet Union when it still existed or North Korea today.
posted by sour cream at 8:23 AM on May 8, 2012


Don't forget how, immediately after 9/11, the US came close to bombing Al-Jazeera's headquarters. At this point I presume they have a back-door agreement with the US to operate, as long as they don't say anything too incendiary, and I imagine their newsroom has at least a couple of folks on the CIA payroll. Most countries don't care about freedom of the press when it threatens their diplomatic interests.
posted by miyabo at 9:07 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


(article about the US plan to destroy Al Jazeera)
posted by miyabo at 9:12 AM on May 8, 2012


Christ, has this really derailed into the argument about whether or not China is communist? Come on people, we're better than that. It's a stupid argument, irrelevant in any context. It doesn't matter which of two or three simplistic labels we use to try to sum up the entire political-economic gestalt of China; what matters right here is that they are expelling journalists.

Specifically, they are expelling journalists from a news organization that is controversial here in the U.S. but beloved by many here on MetaFilter for its reputation of doing substantive, unflinching investigative journalism that brings to light the practices of major world powers which said powers would rather keep quiet about. Also, the organization in question has, in response to bullying by the Chinese government, decided to reduce its presence in China for fear of greater repercussions against its employees.

Can we talk about that, please? Or do we just not know very much about that situation and so in our ignorance we feel the need to retreat to a safe, well-trodden, hopelessly simplistic debate about the economic and political ideology of an entire country comprising 1.3 billion human beings? I know we're better than that. If we don't know much about something we can RTFA, do a little independent research and bring our findings back to the community, or just keep quiet and listen to more-informed people speak on the subject.
posted by Scientist at 9:16 AM on May 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic have separate editorial and management ( except joined at the very top) structures too. What you get on Arabic is very different from AJE in style, tone, and focus,

Ah, good job. I've only watched the English version, so maybe I presumed they were the same but for language.
posted by Jehan at 9:19 AM on May 8, 2012


LiteOpera: "You can't have communism and a free press. This hasn't worked anywhere.

Has anyone even tried it?
"

Alexander Dubček in Czechoslovakia back in the 60s, but then those pesky Soviets decided to follow the words of Lenin and sent in the tanks....
posted by symbioid at 10:52 AM on May 8, 2012


I wonder how much of China's coverage in the U.S. is shaped not just by economic interests of the parent companies, but also the desire for elites in the U.S. to simply have access to China. It seems like reporters are less likely to want to go hard against the Chinese government, and I think a big part of that may simply be that they like going there, and won't be able to if they piss off the government too much.
clamping down on the press is much harder in a functioning capitalist society
Right, which is totally why you can watch Al Jazera English on cable in the U.S.

But more seriously, China obviously has a functioning capitalist society. I suppose capitalism probably does help the spread of bad news in one way: News the government doesn't want you to know about has an intrinsic economic value. If you push the edge of what's acceptable, you'll get popular. There are lots of popular message boards and blogging services that are censored, but the fact that posts need to be removed shows people are hearing about it. Those services exist because people are trying to get rich.

If there was no way to make money off of an internet service, then people might not run them.
Argh! FFS, Israel is more "communist" than the Chinese. Viktor Belenko, the Soviet MiG pilot, found the U.S. to be more "communist" than the Soviet Union.
That's interesting. What made him say that, I wonder? Obviously in 1947 the U.S. 1976.
Ideal Communism: classless, status-less society in which the needs of everyone are advanced in equal measure; health insurance for everyone; shiny happy people dancing beneath a rainbow...

Real Communism: The attempt of transitioning to Ideal Communism gone horribly awry; no freedom of speech, press etc.; political prisoners rotting away in gulags; a ruling party with rampant nepotism;
Wow, that's a pretty self-serving definition. We'll just define communism as having failed! That way, we can say communism always fails, and if it doesn't fail, we don't have to consider it!
Don't forget how, immediately after 9/11, the US came close to bombing Al-Jazeera's headquarters. At this point I presume they have a back-door agreement with the US to operate, as long as they don't say anything too incendiary, and I imagine their newsroom has at least a couple of folks on the CIA payroll.
Al Jazera is run by the government of Qatar, which in addition to AJ also hosts US Central Command (or CENTCOM) - which was where we managed the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presumably interfering too much might cause diplomatic problems. Who knows what's really going on.
posted by delmoi at 12:09 PM on May 8, 2012


Foreign press is easy to identify and clamp down on. It's past time news bureaus started relying on local talent to get the story.

Local talent working for foreign news agencies are easily identifiable. I agree with the general sentiment, but I also understand why Al Jazeera is closing shop. What are their other options?
posted by romanb at 2:03 AM on May 9, 2012


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