If you’ve read a story about China in the last couple of years that sounded just too good to be true – that smelled, in fact, more like sweet, sweet horse manure – chances are it came from CEN, a European-based “news agency” whose bluff just got called in exhaustive length by BuzzFeed investigative reporters.
Although their offices and staff are in Vienna, CEN’s scope is worldwide – Russia, Argentina, India, Macedonia and the PRC, where it regularly elbows Xinhua aside to publish the least likely version of events.
I work for a sub-branch of CCTV geared toward international video news, and we have several TV screens in the office that run 24-hour feeds of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Al Jazeera and others – ostensibly to keep up with the competition. But I returned from our canteen this past Sunday evening to find six or seven of my Chinese colleagues glued to a screen showing a live-feed from CNN.
The arrest of another journalist in China is normally cause for concern: as the news is shared across social networks, tweets of sympathy accumulate, human rights groups and lawyers protest, and diplomats may even issue statements of public concern.
But the detention of economics anchor Rui Chenggang (pictured), reportedly “dragged” from his offices by investigators just hours before his show was due to go live, has prompted almost the opposite – the overwhelming response, as the NY Times’s Ed Wong noted, has been one of schadenfreude (xingzai lehuo, “feel happy about someone’s disaster”).
On April 14, New York Times reporters Kirk Semple and Eric Schmitt published an article titled “China’s Actions in Hunt for Jet Are Seen as Hurting as Much as Helping" that quoted two government officials -- one from the US and one from Malaysia, both unnamed -- who said China has not, to put it nicely, contributed much to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. It was a disturbing piece, not least because it seemed to signal the search may have entered a new phase in which the frustrations and difficulties of finding the missing jet could spill into finger-pointing and politics.
A Guardian sub-editor overdosed on caffeine while writing the headline to a humdrum taxi-app story. How else to explain this? China's one-party rule has survived market reforms, the killing of students, Wukan, and Bo Xilai. But it currently quakes at its foundations because you damn people can't stop using Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache.
Reporters Without Borders released its latest version of the World Press Freedom Index, and apparently China has cancer. It ranks sixth from the bottom, at 175, below Vietnam, Iran, Cuba, etc. To give you an understanding of how bad Reporters Sans Frontières believes the situation is:
"The smog has become so thick in Beijing that the city's natural light-starved masses have begun flocking to huge digital commercial television screens across the city to observe virtual sunrises..."
-- lied The Daily Mail in an article last week
"Several Western journalists who faced expulsion from China were issued renewed visas by the Chinese government Thursday, ending a months-long standoff," writes William Wan for Washington Post. Yay!
"Austin Ramzy, a journalist who previously worked for Time magazine, has not been given press accreditation or a permanent visa since he joined the Times, according to journalists in Beijing."
Paul Mooney, Edward Wong, Bob Dietz, and Sarah Cook are in Washington DC to participate in a panel discussion organized by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. "China's Treatment of Foreign Journalists" begins at 3:30 pm ET today (Wednesday) and can be streamed live here. It's a bit early for you China people -- 4:30 am -- but may be worth it if you have nothing better to do.
"Is Beijing about to Boot the New York Times?" asks the headline to this Foreign Policy article (not paywalled!) by Isaac Stone Fish. It's a fair bit of speculation: 12 Times journalists are apparently anxiously waiting for their annual visa renewals, as revealed by two sources speaking to FP on background. (Emphasis on either "anxious" or "still waiting," depending on your level of cynicism about media / China.) About a dozen Bloomberg journalists are reportedly in the same boat.
Xinhua host and moonlighter for the Daily Mail’s venerable China Bureau Nikki Aaron has been blissfully peddling the British tabloid yarns of her “China adventures” for the last few months. All well and good.
Here’s her latest, on dating, a subject she has visited before. The extremely confessional tone of the Mail piece begs the question: who is Nikki Aaron?
The Telegraph, reporting from across the pond on a senseless tragedy, i.e. yet another mass shooting in the US, has apparently thought it worthwhile to use the first 12 paragraphs of an 18-paragraph story describing how Aaron Alexis -- the Navy Yard gunman who killed 12 people on Monday in Washington DC -- had a "string of failed relationships with Asian women." That's in the headline of this "exclusive," by the way: "Aaron Alexis: Washington Navy yard gunman had string of failed relationships with Asian women."
There will be no admonishing in this post, because anything that gets Battlestar Galactica in the news is a-okay by us. A recent article on the Japanese-language version of the website for the China Internet Information Center featured pictures ripped straight from BSG and passed off as futuristic military technology.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on... you, I guess. Fool me four times, shame all around. Fool me five times, does your mother know you're doing this? Fool me... I've lost count. Stop fooling me!
It didn't seem too good to be true, because why wouldn't you believe that a little girl, she alone amongst dozens of passersby, would squat with her pretty umbrella to help an unconscious street cleaner in Guangzhou? And that a reporter would happen to be there to take a picture?
The SCMP reporter who got Alibaba chairman Jack Ma on record comparing his leadership decisions with Deng Xiaoping's during the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown has resigned after being accused of editorial tampering.
In a statement released on its website, SCMP claims its reporter, Liu Yi, surreptitiously "accessed the system and replaced the editor-approved article with an altered version in which Mr Ma's reference made in relation to June 4th was removed."
The Wall Street Journal has a follow-up to a Chinese state media article we linked to yesterday, in which a South Korean broadcaster, while trying to express relief that the two girls who died on Asiana flight 214 from Shanghai to San Francisco via Seoul were not Korean (as if nationality matters in these tragedies), used utterly regretful phrasing.
We don't really have an explanation for this. Edward Snowden is back in the news in a big way -- he left Hong Kong and is traveling to either Cuba or Ecuador via Moscow -- but check out what the Independent did with the front page of its newspaper, which hits newsstands today. The caption reads: "A red-shirted Edward Snowden, the man who leaked classified documents revealing US internet surveillance, among passengers at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport yesterday after he flew in from Hong Kong. Reports say Mr Snowden has asked Ecuador for asylum. BARCROFT MEDIA."