Friday, May 22, 2015

Under Coverage

Good to see, last Thursday, a legend for investigative reporters and whistle-blowers walk on the stage of the Seoul Digital Forum.




A movie was made about a key episode of Lowell Bergman's professional life: in 'The Insider' (1999), Bergman (Al Pacino) helps Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russel Crowe) expose the big tobacco imposture, before exposing himself attempts by his employer (CBS) to bury the story. In the end, truth and journalism triumph because Bergman breaks the 'every journo for himself' rule by sharing his story with competitors.

Thursday at the DDP, I couldn't help but feel sad, thinking how badly this region needs people like Bergman. Last year, I did watch, on the same stage, a Korean take at investigative journalism*, but Newstapa remains a bit too much data-centric and politically biased. To be fair, South Korean media are so overwhelmingly conservative and reluctant to mention certain issues, that liberal sources such as Hankyoreh or Newstapa tend to over-dramatize their own reporting.

Since it's hard to break truly valuable stories in a corrupt system**, some manage to emerge through netizen spheres... when they are not drowned in an ocean of hoaxes and wild rumors.

It speaks volumes that South Korea ranks now as the 'least bad' nation in the Press Freedom Index for a region where everybody regressed over the past few years (RSF 2015 vs 2010***):
  • South Korea 60th (42nd in 2010, -18)
  • Japan 61st (11th, -50)
  • Russia 152nd (140th, -12)
  • China 176th (171th, -5)
  • North Korea 179th (177th, always second to last - Eritrea)
No need to comment on Kim Jong-un's North Korea, Putin's Russia, or even Xi Jinping's China, where hopes for change were short-lived, and censorship gets more pervasive by the day.

What strikes most - but certainly doesn't come as a surprise to us - is Japan's skydive from the 11th to the 61st position.

Shinzo Abe's attacks on press freedom, intensified after his outrageous State Secrecy Law, are seldom mentioned in Japan's mainstream media, and no one dare denounce them, except foreign correspondents that take the risk of being shunned by the government. Among the few local voices, Shigeaki Koga could only make himself be heard at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, or last week in the New York Times ("The Threat to Press Freedom in Japan" (Shigeaki Koga - NYT 20150520). Most Japanese citizens are kept in the dark, and obviously the "Effort by Japan to Stifle News Media Is Working" (Martin Fackler - 20150426).

To make things worse, the only significant media that (barely) challenged Abe's Nippon Kaigi-friendly agenda seems to have finally castrated itself. And since Fuji Media Holdings bought GPlus Media, I haven't read any significant story on that agenda in Japan Today (FMH also owns Sankei Shimbun...).



Censorship peaks at NHK following the nomination of a friend of Shinzo Abe at the helm of the broadcaster

Hopefully, Japanese citizens remain uncomfortable with Abe's attack on their peaceful constitution. But for how long? Public opinions are changing quickly, and the government fuels fear and hatred with some success... and what to say of America's failure to assist a Japan in danger (see ""History is harsh" and other sick jokes")?


Speaking of the devil, the US themselves are not on a very positive trend at the Press Freedom Index (from 20th to 49th between 2010 and 2015). The UK? Nothing to be proud either (from 19th to 34th). And if my home country France went up a bit (from 44th to 38th), it's bound to crash next year following the Charlie Hebdo massacre or the controversial 'Projet de Loi Relatif au Renseignement' it triggered.

But who am I to judge anyway? Do I need to remind you that my lousy blogs have been labeled Weapons of Mass Disinformation since 2003?

Seoul Village 2015
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* "Truth, Lies and Data" - Kwon Hyejin, Newstapa - SDF2014 - data and investigative journalism
** see also "Korea's media malaise" (John Power, Groove Magazine 20141103)
*** out of 178 countries in 2010, 180 in 2015
**** see "'Comfort Women': No Resolution Without Resoluteness. From Everyone, Please."


--- UPDATE 20150528 ---

This, from Human Rights Watch (about the National Security Act, a cold-war relic) : "South Korea: Cold War Relic Law Criminalizes Criticism".

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