From: The Listening Post

The information war

The WikiLeaks story has seen free speech activists line up on one side and cagey politicians on the other.

On the show this week we look at the continued effort to shutdown the whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks and incarcerate its founder, Julian Assange. We also have a report on a news upstart in China with international ambitions.

We start the show this week with a multi-faceted media story that has generated myriad news strands and angles but also legal complications. At the centre of it all is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He has become the human face in an information war that has left free speech activists on one side and cagey politicians on the other. The fight has drawn in some unlikely participants, from credit card companies to Swedish lawyers.

It is uncharted waters for the media – some had to report the story while defending their coverage. It is an uncertain future for politicians who are desperately trying to shut down the website while putting out diplomatic fires across the globe. It is a moral dilemma for those who question the right to information over the danger of too much information. It is a lot of things, but mostly – it is a fascinating story!

Quick hits from the media world: evidence of electoral fraud and voter intimidation in Egypt surface on new media websites as much of the mainstream media were locked out of the story; the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists calls for better safety equipment and training for journalists, as well as life insurance policies for them as Pakistan has become the most dangerous country to report from in 2010; Britain’s media gets the blame for the England’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 Football World Cup; and French media gets accused by Cote d’Ivoire’s media of trying to destabilise the West African country.

Why would a country spend $7bn on forming a new news channel that does not even broadcast locally? It seems absurd but when you consider the country in question is China, and the channel’s modus operandi is to rehabilitate its image, it makes a little more sense. It is called CNC World and began broadcasting in July. Editors there describe their mission as “grabbing the megaphone” and aim to neutralise all the negative coverage China gets in the international media. But there is already a steady stream of news output coming from China so is this new initiative nuanced enough to have an impact with a global audience? With channels like the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera consuming so much international airtime, is there enough room for one more? And how receptive will a global audience be to a news channel beaming out of a country that is notorious for controlling the news agenda? All questions the Listening Post’s Meenakshi Ravi tries to answer.

And finally, the WikiLeaks saga is a hard story to get your head around. There are numerous leaders mentioned in thousands of diplomatic cables over an extended period of time. Sometimes the best way to understand it all is to leave it up to the satirists. The guys at Taiwan’s Next Media Animation did a pretty good job, so we made it our Internet Video of the Week. We hope you enjoy the show.

This episode of the Listening Post aired from Friday, December 10, 2010.