Authoritarian regimes churn out their fantasies of the world through their state-controlled media outlets and we regularly check in on what they're dreaming.
China scores an 'exclusive' with silenced Ai Weiwei
The race to interview dissident artist Ai Weiwei is apparently over. It was no small feat: released from government detention in June, he cannot speak to the media, use social media or leave Beijing. The winner? Global Times, the tabloid companion to the Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily. Ai is quoted as saying, "Overthrowing the regime through a radical revolution is not the way to solve China's problems. The most important thing is a scientific and democratic political system." The story also makes Ai sound more like a privacy-hungry celebrity than a recent detainee: "Ai agreed to be interviewed but insisted that he not be asked about details of his detention," the paper writes. The piece quotes sources who hint that Ai is guilty of "economic crimes," question the value of his artwork, and suggest that he has close ties with "foreign forces who want to descend China into turmoil." Earlier this week, Ai issued his first critiques of the government on Twitter since his detention.
Elsewhere in the Global Times an editorial lashes out at the U.S.for being too "sensitive" about the Chinese media's criticism during the debt ceiling debacle. "Like a fading beauty that gets agitated when she hears that it is time to act her age and accept the truth, the US cannot tolerate criticism of its irresponsible fiscal policy," the op-ed observes. Ouch.
North Korea bypasses firefight with South Korea to talk fish
On a day when North and South Korea engaged in a brief exchange of fire near their disputed Yellow Sea border, we're not finding any mention of the incident at the Korean Central News Agency. Instead, in a country where as many as six million of the country's twenty-four million citizens are at risk of malnutrition, the agency discusses food--particularly fish. We learn that sea bass is healthy to eat in the summer and that juvenile fish were released into a large man-made lake today. We imagine this might be the North Korean equivalent of The New York Times writing about building $50,000 treehouses for children in the middle of an economic crisis.
Libyan television trots out footage to prove Qaddafi's son's alive
The Libyan regime appears to have come up with a formula for combating persistent rumors that Muammar Qaddafi's son Khamis has died: show footage of Khamis on Libyan TV to debunk the speculation without referencing the rumors explicitly. The government employed this exact formula in March when rumors surfaced that Khamis had been killed by a "kamikaze" pilot, and it's relied on that tactic again today, a week after headlines like "Libya Rebels Say NATO Raid killed Kadhafi Son" dominated the news. "Major Khamis Muammar Gaddafi on Tuesday visited the wounded and injured in Zliten Central hospital who [have] survived after a massacre committed by NATO," the state-run Jamahiriya News Agency noted in a bulletin. "The wounded and injured renewed expressing their steadfastness and determination to defend their country and their city and not to waste an inch of the soil of Libya." While the footage below from Libyan TV (a Spanish broadcaster's voice is overlaid) doesn't provide us with definitive proof that Khamis is alive, Al Jazeera concludes at least that the man in the video bears a "striking resemblance to Khamis."
Iran can't get enough of the U.K. riots
Earlier today, we noted how Iranian officials, relishing the chance to turn the tables on their Western critics, are seizing on the London riots to demand that the U.K. end its "violent crackdown" on "protesters" and the U.N. Security Council investigate human rights abuses in England. The Iranian press is flooding its readers with the message. Just check out these three homepages. Half of the top stories at Press TV are about the riots.
Syria portrays withdrawing troops as triumphant heroes
Al Jazeera tells us today that Syrian tanks are storming two northwestern border towns while Al Arabiya claims withdrawing tanks have returned to the restive city of Hama. But you wouldn't know it from the Syrian Arab News Agency's coverage of the uprising. The agency reports that Syrian troops are withdrawing from Hama "completely" after "restoring stability and security" in the face of "killing, terrorizing and sabotage committed by the armed terrorist groups"--language the government often employs to describe the unrest. The article quotes journalists from state-run news outlets in China and Iran (China has stayed relatively silent on the uprising while Iran has supported the Syrian regime) as confirming that the military has conducted a full withdrawal, despite the "false and fabricated news" broadcast by "some TV channels" (read Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya). In the article on the left, the soldiers are portrayed as triumphant heroes.
The Taliban is tweeting again!
In June, we noticed that the Taliban, after a period of frenzied tweeting, had abandoned Twitter for Facebook. Well, after a two-month hiatus, the militant group returned to the microblogging site today with no explanation, tweeting links to their English-language messages about causalities inflicted in attacks. Curiously, now it's the Taliban's old Facebook page that isn't working. Is the group becoming a social networking nomad as it seeks to find the right platform for communicating its exploits (exaggerated as they may be) to the wider world?