Asia: two differing views of the Internet

Asia: two differing views of the Internet.
China is having problems with Internet freedom. They’ll lose, of course, but the government’s efforts to put the cat back in the bag are sad. For all the talk about Iranian bloggers tackling the government there, the real story is in China, with nearly a third of the earth’s population.

AFP News reports that the cultural minister has called for tighter controls on the Internet including 24-hour surveillance and urging people to tell on each other.

During a recent national meeting on “rectifying” Internet bars or cafes, Sun Jiazheng hinted that the government’s efforts to manage soaring Internet use had not been sufficient, the Xinhua state news agency website said Friday.

“Managing Internet bars requires centralized measures, the people’s prevention and monitoring and thorough control,” Sun was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Sun also called for “using long-range computer surveillance systems to carry out 24-hour, real-time monitoring of the Internet bars,” Xinhua said.

He said Internet bars should be “standardized” by establishing chains, instead of the small, difficult-to-regulate, hole-in-the-wall cafes that have popped up all over China — even in remote reserves for giant pandas.

Illegal Internet cafes, those that allow minors to enter, and those that let people spread “harmful” information were the three most serious problems, Sun said.

If this wasn’t so pathetic, it would be humorous. The Internet suffers chaos, not control, and these Chinese government controllers are right to fear it. China is second only to the U.S. in the numbers of people online. They may not have the guns, but history has proven time and time again that when you combine the human need for freedom with a way to spread its “harmful” message, the results can be striking.

Just take a look at South Korea, where the founder of the citizen journalist enterprise, OhMyNews, has announced expansion. (Note on the link: the Korean language download is not required to view the page.) Writing in the new English language International version, Oh Yeon Ho is now asking people of the world to participate in his prototype of citizen reporting.

OhmyNews International began operating on the occasion of our fourth anniversary, and this marks the beginning of the globalization of a native Korean product, OhmyNews. In March, OhmyNews International will begin translating five to six major articles daily, then gradually expand to allow the citizens of the world to participate by writing their own articles in English. Until now, “Every Citizen’s a Reporter” has been applied only to speakers of Korean. Now it will grow to include people everywhere.
Educated in the U.S., Oh Yeon Ho is a pioneer in new journalism. OhMyNews is rewriting the rules of “the news” every day. Its influence at the grassroots level has been widely credited with helping President Roh Moo-hyun win the popular vote in 2002. In addition to the International version, there’s OhMyTV.

OhmyNews was born with the motto “Every Citizen’s a Reporter,” and now will create an environment where “every citizen is a broadcasting reporter.” OhmyNews’ web broadcasting unit, OhmyTV, has been completely redone and made more prominent. “Citizen Anchor News” began last week, and is the first attempt anywhere to have regular citizens do the news. As always, OhmyNews will continue to provide our readers lively coverage of the news in action, and will gradually increase regular programming.
The distance separating South Korea and China is miniscule, but they are light years apart culturally. This is clearly evidenced in each country’s view of the Internet. We all need to be paying close attention.

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