In today's tour of state-sponsored propaganda, China's media pounces on Melissa Chan, North Koreans get a taste of the real world and Syrian media goes X-rated. We begin in Beijing.
Melissa Chan Got What She Deserved
Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan may have bravely exposed government land grabs and black jails while reporting in China but she totally deserved to be expelled from the country this week. At least that's the view of an Orwellian editorial in China's state-run newspaper Global Times Thursday. "She has produced some programs which are intolerable for China," reads the hit piece. But the editorial is not just opinionated bluster. It also has this Pulitzer Prize-worthy scoop: "According to foreign journalist sources here in Beijing, Melissa Chan holds an aggressive political stance." Oh, no!
Without giving any substantive criticism of her work, the editors move on to attacking the international press at large. "Foreign journalists in China must abide by journalistic ethics," it reads. "They have their values and reporting angles, but the bottom line is that they should not turn facts upside down." No word yet if the Global Times editors have RSVPd for the next Poynter seminar but tickets are still available.
Syria Media Goes X-Rated
In a highly-questionable editorial decision, Syria's state-run news agency SANA displayed images of the mutilated bodies from Thursday's car bombing that left up to 55 dead. The images were exceptionally graphic, showing dismembered bodies, blown off hands and ripped open corpses on the street. It has since taken down some of the images originally displayed but many graphic images are still posted on its website [Warning] here.
So why the X-rated viewing? Though opposition groups deny executing the bombing, a claim no one has been able to independently confirm, President Bashar al-Assad's regime has been using the attacks to convey the brutality of these "foreign-backed terrorist groups." One of the least graphic images is shown to the left.
There's a Crack in North Korea's Propaganda Vacuum
We're told time and time again: North Korea is one of the most restricted countries in the world. But turns out, the ability of North Koreans to access foreign media is increasing. A new State Department-commissioned study surveyed several hundred North Korean defectors and refugees in 2010 and 2011, asking about their ability to sneak a peak at alternative media. "Nearly half of those interviewed said that while in North Korea they had watched a foreign DVD, the most commonly used type of outside media," said the study. "About a quarter of people had listened to a foreign radio news broadcast or watched a foreign news station." Additionally, almost one-third of the respondents whose TVs were fixed to state propaganda channels tweaked their sets to capture outside signals. And here we thought the Korean Central News Agency was the only game in town.
Of course, the sample isn't perfect. Refugees and defectors are exactly who you'd think would be seeking out non-propaganda sources. Regardless, it's nice to know there are some ways every day people can hear some truth. As for the Internet, that'll have to wait a decade or two. "There is no access to the Internet beyond a small number of computers in highly secure or highly monitored areas," according to the study.