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Social media and citizen journalism help chart China’s violent land grabs

In the absence of an independent media, citizen journalism and social media have thrived in China and Chinese people have used the internet to report on civil and human rights abuses ignored by mainstream media.

Now an anonymous Chinese blogger called Bloody Map has collated incidents of illegal land grabs and property demolitions and plotted them on Google Maps.



The project, called 血房地图 (xuefang ditu or “Bloody Map”), charts often-violent evictions and demolitions throughout China. According to the project’s Sina account (now invite-only), its aim is to:

… collect and list cases of violent eviction which have, or will, already faded from public view; some cases going back 2-3 years I had to dig up myself, but with your support, it’ll be much easier. When I say that new housing is being built right now on land covered in blood, people know what I mean.

There are forceful evictions taking place now which need more media attention, Bloody Map on its own isn’t an appropriate platform to that end. People can’t expect that an effort like this will create enough attention to put an end to current forced evictions. The goal of this site is to present evidence allowing consumers to make decisions. If a day comes when this tiny map is able to make people within the interest chain of a particular eviction reconsider their actions, then it will have achieved its goal.

There are actually two Bloody Maps: a “revised” version edited by the founder that shows only cases reported by media, and an “open” version that anyone can add to or edit. Contributors use symbols to specify the nature of the property-related violence: video cameras for media coverage; volcanoes for violence during protests; beds for when property owners were killed; and flames for when those resisting eviction set themselves on fire.

Since launching a month ago on October 8, the maps have recorded 130 incidents and attracted more than 476,000 views. The founder says incidents will be removed when the media reports the resolution of conflicts. The project itself has attracted some media attention, with both the Shanghai Daily newspaper (subscription required) and Xinhua news agency reporting on the maps.

Colin Shek is an NCTJ print postgraduate from the University of Sheffield, currently based in Shanghai. This post was originally published on his website: www.colinshek.com. He can be found on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/colinshek

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YouTube blog: Assessing risks and protecting subjects in human rights filmmaking

As part of a new blog series with human rights video advocacy and training organisation WITNESS, Youtube has posted a training video on its blog for journalists interested using video to report on a human rights issue.

The latest videos features advice on how to protect your subjects and yourself as a filmmaker.

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#Amnestyawards: A reminder of the content in the paywall chatter

Ahead of yesterday’s Amnesty Media Awards 2010 ceremony, shortlisted nominee duckrabbit (@duckrabbitblog) tweeted:

If last year is anything to go by … take a valium before heading up to the #amnestyawards … sobering stuff

And they were right: the audience saw harrowing images and heard troubling narration, as the introduction to each of the shortlisted pieces of human rights journalism, across 10 categories in digital, print and radio.

It was the BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s Justin Webb, presenting the national newspaper prize, who reminded us of the substance behind the ‘future of journalism’ conversation. Joking that he’d undergone hardship in his own reportage (sometimes they went half-an-hour without a snack on the Obama campaign trail!), he said it was testimony to the diligence of the shortlisted contenders that they had completed this journalism. They, he said, had put aside the “chatter” of the organs for which they work and “talk of paywalls” to pursue their subject matter.

It was a particularly timely day for the awards – Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen mentioned the seizure of the Gaza flotilla activists by Israel, and the media’s vital role in reporting events. A special award for journalism under threat has been given to independent media workers in Burma, to raise awareness of the plight of 2,200 political prisoners held by the ruling junta, including more than 40 journalists.

In addition to the main prizes, two young entrants were named Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year winners, in a new prize set up by Amnesty International UK in collaboration with the Guardian Learnnewsdesk. Their pieces on bullying and child detention at Yarl’s Wood can be read on the Guardian site, along with the other shortlisted entries.

I’ve link to some of the shortlisted videos shown last night. Not all content is available to watch/listen in full, but even these snippets are a reminder of the kind of content that should be protected – and  prioritised – in the trade and in discussions on the future of journalism.

Gaby Rado Memorial Award

International Television and Radio

Nations and Regions

National Newspapers

Digital Media

Periodicals – Consumer Magazines

Periodicals – Newspaper Supplements

Photojournalism

Radio

Television Documentary and Docudrama

Television News

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Marking the World Day Against Cyber Censorship

March 12th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

“Against the enemies of the internet”  – this is the short but incisive message for today’s World Day Against Cyber Censorship, organised by press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary-general of RSF, explains the day in this video:

To mark the day, RSF has published an article, ‘Web 2.0 versus Control 2.0′, emphasising the idea of the internet as a force for democracy and freedom.

The fight for free access to information is being played out to an ever greater extent on the Internet. The emerging general trend is that a growing number of countries are attempting to tighten their control of the net, but at the same time, increasingly inventive ‘netizens’ demonstrate mutual solidarity by mobilizing when necessary.

Last night RSF, with support from Google, awarded the inaugural Netizen Prize to the Iranian creators of website Change for Equality, “a well-known source of information on women’s rights in Iran [...] and rallying point for opponents of the regime.”

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Google’s head of public policy: ‘We live or die by the trust our users have in our services’

Google’s head of public policy and government relations pushed the ‘don’t be evil’ line at last night’s Amnesty International social media event, with emphasis on user power and responsible company behaviour.

“We live or die by the trust our users have in our services,” Susan Pointer told the audience of human rights, technology and media workers gathered to discuss the positive and negative uses of technology for democracy.

Also speaking were the Guardian’s digital media research editor, Kevin Anderson; Annabelle Sreberny, professor of global media and communication at SOAS; and author and blogger Andrew Keen: who spoke from the US via an iPhone held up to the mic by the event chair, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

“[A] very important thing to understand about the way our business operates is that our users choose to use it,”  Pointer later told Journalism.co.uk.

“We don’t have a contract with our users that ties them into our services. They haven’t invested a lot of money in our software packages.

“The way we keep our users is by continuing to provide good, leading edge innovative services: they’re free at the click of a mouse to choose an alternative to Google.”

Providing valuable services for users keeps the search giant – which owns YouTube as well as running a host of other products – on its toes, she said.

Improving the transparency of the recently launched social media application Google Buzz was one such reaction to user complaints, she added.

When the company realised improvements could be made, they were implemented, she said: “that’s something we did within hours and not days.”

While Pointer argued that no user information was ever revealed before an individual went through the Buzz set-up process, she said it had been necessary to make changes to the visibility of the user controls.

The addition of Buzz to the Google Dashboard allowed even greater user control over settings, she argued.

On Google’s approach to China she would not be drawn beyond the company’s most recent blog post, which explained its decision to stop censoring the Chinese language Google search service: “We no longer felt comfortable self-censoring results on Google.cn.”

The company is currently “discussing the possibility of continuing the Google.cn service without such censorship”.

“We’re not going to give a running commentary on where discussions are, but we want those discussions to be in good faith.”

Listen to Pointer talking to the Amnesty UK audience via AudioBoo:

On China:


On privacy, Google Buzz and customising advertising:

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