Via VOA News/Tim Collins
Al Jazeera English has fast become a popular alternative in world news. They have bureaus in America, England, Africa, The Middle East, and until recently, China. Beijing correspondent Melissa Chan was for all intents and purposes booted out of the country after her visa wasn’t renewed. China has a tight grip on its media with state run television and even try, when possible, to clamp down on the foreign press.
Here is the story from VOA News:
Al Jazeera English announced Tuesday that its Beijing correspondent Melissa Chan did not have her visa renewed. That is in effect, an expulsion from China. The following is a transcript of some of the questions and answers at the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s daily briefing, where spokesman Hong Lei answered foreign reporters’ questions about the Chinese government’s action.
Q: I just want to know whether the expulsion of Melissa Chan should be seen as a warning to other journalists operating in China?
Hong Lei: “I have just answered relevant questions. On the issue of foreign journalists our policies and moves are easy to see. We will continue to provide convenience for foreign journalists reporting in China and we welcome foreign journalists to report in China. At the same time we need to stress that foreign journalists should abide by Chinese laws and regulations, as well as professional ethics of journalists while reporting in China.”
Q: Under what circumstances will Al Jazeera be given press credentials and visas for a new reporter?
Hong Lei: “The Beijing branch of Al Jazeera is still functioning normally.”
Q: So if there is a new correspondent for Al Jazeera will you give them a visa?
Hong Lei: “We will process relevant procedure in accordance with laws and regulations.”
Q: Can you tell us who made the decision to deny Ms. Chan, was it the Foreign Ministry or another department?
Hong Lei: “We deal with relevant matter in accordance with law.”
Q: Can you give us any specifics on why Melissa Chan was expelled from the country because there is a lot of confusion here and unless you’re more specific about it it’s very difficult for us to get a picture of exactly what’s going on.
Hong Lei: “I have already answered this question.”
Q: I think the main concern of the journalists is that the Chinese government, you use the issue of visa as a way to censor journalists’ work in China. Is this a precedent of how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will behave in the future?
Hong Lei: “I have stressed that China welcomes foreign journalists to report in China and we have also provided convenience to foreign journalists in reporting objectively in China. I think you have been in China for several years and are very clear about this. At the same time I want to stress that foreign journalists should abide by Chinese laws and regulations while reporting in China.”
Q: What could the Chinese government say if a Chinese journalist was expelled from a foreign country?
Hong Lei: “I want to point out that the Chinese government will follow strictly relevant regulations in dealing with foreign journalists.”
Q: Chinese laws and regulations are written down, so even if we don’t know which ones Melissa is accused of violating we know what they say. No where as I know is the Chinese government’s conception of journalistic ethics written down. How can we judge whether our behavior is consistent with Chinese conception of journalist ethics, and can you offer us guidance as to what that conception looks like?
Hong Lei: “I think our policies and laws regarding foreign journalists is very clear. In your work and exchanges with us we have briefed you on relevant Chinese laws and regulations which is also the basis for your work in China. With regard to relevant issue I think relevant media and journalists are clear about that.”
Q: What would the Chinese government say to accusations that it is censoring foreign media with the expulsion of Melissa Chan?
Hong Lei: “I have pointed out China follows relevant laws and regulations in dealing with relevant journalists. I think relevant media and journalists are very clear about what kind of roles and regulations they have broken.”
Q: Where can we see those regulations because we are having some problem in finding which law and regulation was broken. So where can I check the regulation if I want to see some number or article was broken according to Chinese law?
Hong Lei: “I think have answered the relevant question.”
So, how could China’s treatment of Melissa Chan affect the US news industry? For starters the fact that China was able to “get rid” of a foreign journalist who was asking tough questions, might spark an idea for US political figures. In many cases, unless they are a citizen, journalists who work for foreign news agencies are in America on work visas. All work visas expire and need to be renewed.
When you are dealing with foreign press in America like the BBC, RT, France24, Al Jazeera English and countless others, they aren’t tied to the corporate funding that American news agencies are. In America we have the false belief in freedom of press, yet everyone from Fox News to your local paper answers to a corporate master.
Al Jazeera was praised for their unflinching coverage of the Egyptian unrest and their live stream on its website saw record viewers from the United States. Senator John McCain even heaped praise upon Al Jazeera for their style of reporting.
The corporate media has fought against Al Jazeera English being carried by local cable and satellite providers. Whenever the idea is brought up to carry Al Jazeera English on a local provider, the right wing media whips its audience into a frenzy. Calls for boycotts are made, calls are made to the local cable company, and freedom of press is once again subdued by those who claim to be constitutionalists.
Even RT(formerly Russia Today) has drawn ire from the likes of Glenn Beck claiming it to be state run media.
American press seems to have trouble with a foreign perspective. Freedom of press doesn’t matter when you don’t follow the corporate rules. RT has a history of questioning what’s going on in DC. They are asking tough questions about legislation, conduct, and conspiracy.
It does appear that for whatever reason the corporate run media is scared of outside agencies such as RT and Al Jazeera English. The typical reaction from corporate media outlets like Fox News is to smear these news outlets and do everything in their power to discredit them. The US government has many tricks up it’s sleeve that it could use at anytime to any media outlet. As for foreign media in America, the government could follow China’s lead and let visas expire and not allow them to be renewed.
Another tool at the government’s disposal is the FCC, they handle everything from issuing licensing and handling complaints of indecency. The government could, if they wanted to, have the FCC crack down on any foreign news channels that didn’t paint the right picture of the US government.
The American government can already spy on its citizens without a warrant, they have sent FBI and CIA to infiltrate even the most benign groups to gather intel. Those on the right who believe that it’s only the Obama administration doing these things need to wake up. CIA and FBI operatives were sent out infiltrate the early Tea Party to make sure that they weren’t planning violence. Local militia men have been infiltrated and jailed even though they had no plans to attack anyone, they were just talking worst case scenarios and self defense.
The government is still trying to clamp down on the freedoms on the internet. Today the people have more options on how they choose to be informed than in the past. Citizens can now watch Al Jazeera online, they can get their news from independent media outlets, and the number turning to these outlets is growing. The corporate media is scared that they are losing control of the minds of citizens. As alternative media continues to grow in popularity, the corporate media is putting the pressure on Washington to pass all sorts of bills that would kill internet freedom.
The corporate media is struggling to keep the truth out of broadcasting while they spin propaganda for their corporate masters. They tell us not to ask questions.
“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” -Albert Einstein
“Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority or government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put in this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer.” – Ronald Reagan
“All authority belongs to the people” – Thomas Jefferson
We have become subservient to the government, not just government, but rather political parties. We are told by the media not to question the government, unless the corporate media is asking the questions. Americans who dare question why things are the way they are get pushed aside. There are even those who proclaim to be independent, yet they have made their riches from corporate media.
As Americans, it is our job to ask tough questions. It is our job not to take every news story at face value, but to dig deeper and get to the truth. Unfortunately many involved with the corporate media have indoctrinated their viewers, listeners, and readers that if the truth goes against what they say, then it is propaganda or just the liberal or right wing press.
As Ronald Reagan said, “no single authority or government has a monopoly on the truth”. You will never find a news agency that gets the story right all of the time, but some are more accurate than others. It is up to the consumer of the product to search deeper and with an open mind to decide where the truth lies.
As citizens, we need to make sure that the press is truly free. We cannot allow journalists who are exposing the truth to be intimidated by the government or any corporation. Instead of citizens fighting against Al Jazeera English based on what they are told, they should take time to view it with an open mind. Al Jazeera has been made out to be nothing but Taliban propaganda, yet they often come closer to the truth than any other outlet. To lose foreign press in America would put us in the same place as China. We would have nothing but pro government propaganda shoved down our throats.
Whether or not you love or hate Al Jazeera and other foreign press, we need to support them and their efforts to ask the questions that no one else will. Americans need to stop bowing to fear mongering against foreign press and use our own minds to determine exactly how they fit in to the grand scheme of things.
Always search for the truth.