Dousing the Great (Fire)Wall, gradually

When I was in China last summer for a feature writing study abroad class, our University of Miami group discussed the Internet, freedom of speech and censorship with a number of the Chinese journalism students. What we learned and gleaned from their perspectives was quite interesting.

As you can tell from my occasional China posts, I am very interested in these topics, especially speech/press-related issues. (Shameless plug: Check out our class blog and my stories from the trip).

Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article, Great Firewall of China Faces Online Rebels:

“In recent months, China’s censors have tightened controls over the Internet, often blacking out sites that had no discernible political content. In the process, they have fostered a backlash, as many people who previously had little interest in politics have become active in resisting the controls.”

During our stay, I found a few proxy sites to get around some of the censored sites. One of the strangest sites that was completely censored was Wikipedia.

I don’t have a problem with the Chinese people or China in general. I found the country fascinating and the trip the most enlightening I’ve ever taken. My problem is with the lack of freedom: Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble and to protest the government for redress of grievances.

Journalism and free speech are improving with time, mostly due to the power of the Internet. (mobile phones are also playing an important role). The government may continue clamping down in response, but people are gradually pushing back.

NYT: Aghan journalism student sentenced to death for blasphemy

I’d fallen behind with reading the New York Times in my Google Reader, but just ran across this disturbing item:

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan court in northern Afghanistan sentenced a journalism student to death for blasphemy for distributing an article from the Internet that was considered an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, the judge in charge of the court said Wednesday.

The student, Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh, 23, who also works for a local newspaper, was charged with insulting Muhammad by calling the prophet “a killer and adulterer,” the judge, Shamsurahman Muhmand, said in a telephone interview.

The articles were written by his brother, the story says. Furthermore:

The case is the third time that clerics have called for death for a blasphemer in the six years since the removal of the Taliban leadership and reflects the deep conservatism that prevails even under the more liberal government of President Hamid Karzai.

Kambakhsh has the right to petition the decision to the and supreme courts, the article says.

Weigh in: What’s your take on this situation?

Update, Jan. 31 at 2:37 A.M.: CNN has a follow-up story:

Afghan lawmakers back reporter’s death sentence –

Journalism education links, part deux

A brief follow-up to this previous post on journalism education:

Time for the r/evolution of journalism education «

Reviving the J-School :: Inside Higher Ed :: Jobs, News and Views for All of Higher Education

Are journalism schools dying? | The News is

Thanks to Alfred Hermida’s for the post (the first item) and the two links.

: To put journalism education in a more global context, here are some reads on journalism education in China:

For China’s Journalism Students, Censorship Is a Core Concept

The Uncertain Future of Journalism Education in China

Here are some journalism-related articles and a blog post I wrote while in China last summer on a feature writing study abroad trip (Shanghai Journalism Project):

Documenting Shanghai’s documentary TV channel

Communication University not unlike Western schools

Beijing newspaper looks to be more ‘cosmopolitan’

Chinese university students give insight on education

Times correspondent fulfilling career dream in China

Journalism journey continues at university, newspaper

A day of television and acrobatics (blog)

Followup to Chinese blogger death post

I posted this last week about a Chinese blogger who was beaten to death. Here is an update on the case from David Barboza, a New York Times business reporter based out of Shanghai:

Bloggers Push China to Prosecute Beating Death

It’s encouraging to learn that “[c]ity officials in Tianmen in Hubei Province in central China are being punished and investigated for their role in the killing of the man, Wei Wenhua, the general manager of a construction company, and the beatings of five villagers during a dispute on Jan. 7, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.”

As a side note, I had the pleasure of meeting David when I was in China last summer on a UM study abroad trip. Here is a story I wrote about him.