Egalite and Fraternite but what about the other one?
I was in Paris this weekend for the Winning Press Freedom conference, featuring a fantastic line-up of experts and journalists looking at reporting conditions in China.
We heard from the BBC’s foreign news editor and the head of AP Sports, as well as leading academics and NGOs. Perhaps most impressive was Gau Yu, an outspoken journalist who served six years in prison for her reporting on sensitive issues. You can read another blogger commenting on the event here.
I discovered a couple of great websites that I probably should’ve known about already: the brilliant Boxun site (pronounced Bojun, by the way) which often gets the news out first from China. And France 24’s Observers site, which uses eyewitness footage and pics to expose hard-to-get human rights stories.
I also had my eyes opened to how many people in China are reacting to the negative coverage of the Olympic torch relay and some inaccurate reporting by ‘western’ news outlets from Tibet. Angrily. Phone numbers and email addresses of BBC and (particularly) CNN correspondents have been posted online and there have been thousands of angry messages, including some death threats.
It’s important not to ‘China bash’ but only to highlight the failures of the Chinese authorities to honour their human rights promises (a great article on which appeared in today’s Washington Post). Given that my home city is hosting the next Olympics I can really sympathise with Chinese people who feel under attack, particularly when the Olympic torch is snatched from the hands of a Chinese paralympian during the torch relay. One reaction, the Chinese pop song ‘Don’t be too like CNN’, is bound to become a cult hit.
I should also add that Paris is an amazing city – I’d forgotten how beautiful it is. Walking past the Eiffel Tower to get to the conference in the morning, wandering around the Musee d’Orsay on Saturday afternoon and having a fantastic meal at La Gitane, a local bistro that evening, I started re-evaluating my Top Five World Cities (previously New York, London, Tokyo, Berlin and Rome, in no particular order). Jury still out, suggestions welcome!
Finally, keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for a powerful new film we’re releasing about ‘waterboarding’, the CIA torture technique; and in the next few weeks for more news on the UK Counter-terrorism Bill, which includes the controversial plans to extend pre-charge detention limits to 42 days – there was a good Sunday Times story this weekend purporting to have a leaked ‘whips’ list’ of MPs who may vote against the Bill.
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