CANBERRA, Australia — The last two journalists working for Australian media in China have left the country after police demanded interviews with them and temporarily blocked their departures, marking a further twist in China’s increasingly troubled relationship with the foreign media.
The absence of Australian media from China for the first time in four decades comes during a low point in the two countries’ relations, and the events that led to the journalists’ departures were seen as evidence of an increasing risk to foreign journalists working in China.
Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s Bill Birtles and The Australian Financial Review’s Michael Smith landed in Sydney on Tuesday after flying from Shanghai on Monday night, both news outlets reported.
Both journalists had sheltered in Australian diplomatic compounds in recent days.
They left after Australia revealed last week that Australian citizen Cheng Lei, a business news anchor for CGTN, China’s English-language state media channel, had been detained.
Both journalists were told they were “persons of interest” in an investigation into Cheng, The Australian Financial Review reported. Seven uniformed police visited each journalist’s home in Beijing and Shanghai at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, the newspaper said.
Birtles said he knew Cheng, “but not especially well,” and Smith had met her once in his life.
“I believe the episode was more one of harassment of the remaining Australian journalists rather than a genuine effort to try and get anything useful for that case,” Birtles said from his Sydney pandemic quarantine hotel room.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters Tuesday that Cheng was “suspected of carrying out criminal activities endangering China’s national security.”
“Compulsory measures have been imposed on Cheng and she has recently been investigated by relevant authorities,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.
As part of that investigation and in accordance with the law, China’s “relevant authority” demanded to question Birtles and Smith “which is normal law enforcement,” Zhao said.
He had no details on the circumstances of the departure of the two Australians, but said China protected the legitimate rights and interests of news gathering staff and they have the obligation to comply with the laws and regulations in China.”
“As long as foreign journalists conduct news reporting in accordance with laws, they should have nothing to worry about,” Zhao said.
Australian Embassy officials in Beijing told Birtles last week that he should leave China, ABC reported.
Birtles was due to depart Beijing on Thursday and was holding a farewell party on Wednesday when police came to his apartment and told him he was banned from leaving the country, ABC said. He was told he would be contacted on Thursday to organize a time to be questioned about a “national security case,” his employer said.
Birtles went to the Australian Embassy, where he spent four days while Australian and Chinese officials negotiated. Smith had similarly holed up at the Australian Consulate in Shanghai.
Birtles and Smith both agreed to give police a brief interview in return for being allowed to leave the country.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Cheng’s detention was part of the reason her government had advised the journalists to leave. She declined to detail all the reasons.
“It is disappointing that after many years, Australia will not have a media organisation present in China for some period of time,” Payne said.
She said Australia would not retaliate by revoking the visas of Chinese journalists working in Australia.
“Australia operates according to law and in our national interests and unless individuals are breaching laws in Australia, then that would not be an approach that we would take,” Payne said.
Australia’s travel warning of the risk of arbitrary detention in China “remains appropriate and unchanged,” she added.
ABC news director Gaven Morris said Birtles was brought back to Australia on the Australian government’s advice.
“This bureau is a vital part of the ABC’s international news-gathering effort and we aim to get back there as soon as possible,” Morris said.
“The story of China, its relationship with Australia and its role in our region and in the world is one of great importance for all Australians and we want to continue having our people on the ground to cover it,” he added.
The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Michael Stutchbury, and editor, Paul Bailey, described the situation as “disturbing.”
“This incident targeting two journalists, who were going about their normal reporting duties, is both regrettable and disturbing and is not in the interests of a co-operative relationship between Australia and China,” they said in a statement.
Relations between China and Australia were already strained by Australia outlawing covert interference in politics and banning communications giant Huawei from supplying critical infrastructure. They have worsened since the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of and international responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
Australia’s journalist union, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said China was no longer safe for foreign reporters.
“These outrageous attacks on press freedom place any foreign correspondents reporting from China at risk,” union president Marcus Strom said.
Birtles told reporters at Sydney’s airport that his departure was a “whirlwind and … not a particularly good experience.”
“It’s very disappointing to have to leave under those circumstances and it’s a relief to be back in a country with genuine rule of law,” Birtles said.
Smith told his newspaper: “The late-night visit by police at my home was intimidating and unnecessary and highlights the pressure all foreign journalists are under in China right now.”
Smith said at the airport that he had felt “a little bit” threatened in China.
“It’s so good to be home, so happy, I can’t say any more at the moment, it’s such a relief to be home, so really happy,” Smith said.
“It was a complicated experience but it’s great to be here,” he added.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China strongly condemned what it called the government’s “unprecedented harassment and intimidation” of the two.
“This effort to keep foreign journalists in China against their will marks a significant escalation of an ongoing, sustained Chinese government assault on media freedoms,” the club said in a statement Tuesday.
China expelled a record 17 foreign journalists in the first half of 2020 and recently delayed renewing the press cards of five others working for U.S. outlets — putting them at risk of expulsion — in tit-for-tat retaliation for Washington’s limits on Chinese reporters operating in the U.S. and delays in renewing the visas of others.
By The Associated Press
No new laws required to hold social media accountable for illegal content – Canada NewsWire
New report to be discussed by expert panel today
TORONTO, Sept. 21, 2020 /CNW/ – In the eyes of Canadian law, social media companies like Facebook and YouTube are arguably publishers, opening the platforms to legal liability for user-generated content, according to Platform for Harm, a new research report released this morning by the watchdog group FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting.
The report builds on a legal analysis provided by libel defence lawyer and free speech advocate Mark Donald. Longstanding common law states that those who publish illegal content are liable for it in addition to those who create it. According to Donald, this liability is triggered when publishers know that content is harmful but publish it anyway, or if they fail to remove it after being notified of it.
“Our elected officials don’t need to create new laws to deal with this problem. They don’t need to define harmful content, police social media, or constrain free expression in any new way. All government needs to do is apply existing laws. But if a judge decides that content circulated on social media breaks the law, the platform which publishes and recommends that illegal content must be held liable for it,” says FRIENDS’ Executive Director Daniel Bernhard.
Social media platforms have long argued that they are simple bulletin boards that display user-generated content without editorial control, and that it is not possible to discover illegal content from among the 100 billion daily posts.
Yet Facebook and other social media platforms claim to advertisers that they do indeed have the technology to recognize content users post before it is published and pushed out to others.
In fact, the report finds that platforms like Facebook routinely exercise editorial control by promoting content users have never asked to see, including extreme content that would land any other publisher in court: for example the promotion of illegal acts such as the Christchurch, NZ massacre. They also conceal content from users without consulting them, another form of editorial control.
“Facebook and other social media platforms have complaints processes where they are alerted to potentially illegal or otherwise objectionable content. Yet it is their own community standards, not the law, which dictates whether they will remove a post. Even then Facebook employees say that the company does not apply its own standards when prominent right-wing groups are involved,” says Dr. George Carothers, FRIENDS’ Director of Research.
Platform for Harm is the subject of a panel discussion today from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm ET co-sponsored by FRIENDS and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Moderated by Rita Trichur, Senior Business Writer and Columnist at The Globe and Mail, the panel will feature leading platform governance experts, lawyers and a leading political figure who will share their unique opinions and firsthand experiences and discuss ways to balance free speech and the rule of law in relation to harmful content online. Panelists are Daniel Bernhard, Executive Director, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa Centre, Taylor Owen, Senior Fellow, CIGI, Heidi Tworek, Professor of History and Public Policy, UBC.
Join the discussion at 12PM ET today at https://www.cigionline.org/events/platforms-harm.
SOURCE Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
For further information: For information or to book an interview: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592
J-Talks Live kicks off season with Voices for Change: Media's Moment to Shine – Canada NewsWire
- Nana aba Duncan, host of CBC Radio One’s Podcast Playlist and Ontario’s weekend morning show Fresh Air;
- Karen K. Ho, a global finance and economics reporter for New York-based Quartz, a digital business news publication; and
- Angela Sterritt, a journalist with CBC Vancouver and member of the Gitxsan Nation.
“There are so many layers to the conversation with these three standout journalists—from their views on what must change in newsroom culture and how, to ensure it is lasting, to a discussion on the prism through which news is defined and assigned, and followed through,” says Anna Maria Tremonti, host of the J-Talks Live webcast series and the CBC podcast More. “Our panelists are bringing their professional and personal experience to the table as they discuss how this moment in time can and must be the catalyst for permanent change.”
Nana aba Duncan is currently studying the experiences of racialized and women leaders in Canadian media as a William Southam Journalism Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College. Karen K. Ho, a former Delacorte Fellow at the Columbia Journalism Review, has contributed to publications including The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life and Time. Angela Sterritt has won numerous awards for her CBC column, Reconcile This, and is also currently a visiting professor at UBC’s School of Journalism.
This free virtual event is part of the CJF’s J-Talks program, which explores pressing journalistic issues.
The CJF thanks the generosity of J-Talks series sponsor BMO Financial Group and in-kind supporter Cision.
DATE: Thursday, September 24, 2020, 1 p.m. EDT
About The Canadian Journalism Foundation
Founded in 1990, The Canadian Journalism Foundation promotes, celebrates and facilitates excellence in journalism. The foundation runs a prestigious awards and fellowships program featuring an industry gala where news leaders, journalists and corporate Canada gather to celebrate outstanding journalistic achievement and the value of professional journalism. Through monthly J-Talks, a public speakers’ series, the CJF facilitates dialogue among journalists, business people, academics and students about the role of the media in Canadian society and the ongoing challenges for media in the digital era. The foundation also fosters opportunities for journalism education, training and research.
SOURCE Canadian Journalism Foundation
For further information: Natalie Turvey, President and Executive Director, The Canadian Journalism Foundation, [email protected]
Media Beat: September 21, 2020 | FYIMusicNews – FYI Music News
The government’s decision to prorogue Parliament and launch a new legislative agenda later this month offers more than just an opportunity to recalibrate economic priorities in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Less than 12 months after the 2019 national election, Canada’s digital policy agenda has gone off the rails and is badly in need of a reboot.
The Liberals identified consumer telecom pricing, privacy protection and a modernized internet legal framework as priorities, but have struggled to develop an effective approach. – Michael Geist, The Globe and Mail
Details for now remain sketchy but Now magazine’s cofounder announced Friday on Facebook that he is launching a new “hyper-local arts” magazine on Nov. 26. The gloss, four-colour monthly will have separate city editions in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. Private capital is backing him in the venture. More to come.
Spotify shares fell 1.2% on Wednesday after Amazon announced that it’s adding podcasts to its music streaming service.
Users in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan will be able to stream podcasts for free across all tiers of Amazon Music, the company said. Amazon Music offers users a range of paid and free, ad-supported options to access the service. Amazon Prime customers also get access to more than 2 million songs ad-free as part of their $119-per-year membership. – Annie Palmer, CNBC
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an interview on Fox Business Network that the ban would initially impact WeChat and TikTok will be allowed to function until 11/12. “The only real change as of Sunday night will be users won’t have access to improved updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance,” Ross said. – Hits Daily Double
In February, the Trump administration argued before the Supreme Court that Microsoft’s decade-long legal case against Oracle be dismissed. This recommendation came on the same day as Trump’s fundraiser at Ellison’s Coachella Valley home. – Debanjali Bose, Business Insider
“Twitter said it will send a push notification to every member of Congress, officials running for office, U.S. governors, secretaries of state and some U.S. news outlets and political journalists. The alert will ask these people to turn on two-factor authentication and review their password.” – Kurt Wagner, Bloomberg
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