Foreign Policy Blogs

In China, a "Netizen Journalist" is Better than No Journalist at All

In a country like China that is already so restrictive of press freedoms, it’s surprising that the grip of control could be tightened any further. Yet, according to a new press release from the non-governmental organization Freedom House, that’s exactly what is happening.

Freedom House says it is “dismayed by new Chinese Internet restrictions,” which include stricter rules about video sharing websites. The measure follows closely on the heels of a gruesome video that was circulated last week which contained graphic footage of alleged persecution of Tibetans. The video, which was widely circulated, could have been linked to Chinese authorities blocking YouTube.

Of particular concern to Freedom House is a section of the new restrictions which reads:

“The regulations specifically mention videos from “netizen reporters,” who have played a critical role in informing Chinese citizens about police brutality, the melamine scandal and the lethal consequences of corruption surrounding the Sichuan earthquake.”

Netizen is defined by the dictionary as a blending of the two words citizen and net. So a netizen reporter, under China’s repressive laws governing the dissemination of information and control of information, could be a crucial link between the public and information. Even in the face of the facts that a netizen reporter has no media affiliation or fact-checker or editor, they would still be potentially doing what has been referred to in new media jargon as “acts of journalism”.

The gathering and dissemination of information under the current circumstances in China, even without editorial content or control, could be critical information nonetheless.

Mark Twain once said, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort ’em as much as you please.” The Chinese people deserve the opportunity to at least have access to the facts, and can then decide what to do with them.

 

Author

Genevieve Belmaker

Genevieve Belmaker is a freelance journalist and contributing editor with The Epoch Times (www.theepochtimes.com). She also contributes to Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists and Poynter.org. Her blog on journalism is http://artofreportage.com.

Genevieve has traveled throughout the U.S., Asia, Central America, Israel and the West Bank for reporting assignments, including major investigative reports on the recovery of New Orleans, the encroaching presence of China in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the dangerous import of melamine-contaminated milk into the U.S. and settlement outposts in the West Bank. She regularly reports on issues related to journalism, and the work of journalists.

She holds a BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations, and has been a member of several prominent national and international professional media organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the New York Press Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and son.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Journalism; Culture and Society

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