Molotov cocktails and bricks are flying at former bastions of free speech like UC Berkeley. Conservatives are right that these violent protests from college liberals are an attack on free expression, but it’s more than just “whiny snowflakes” on campus who endanger this fundamental right. While these foolish protests over controversial speakers like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos pose a threat to free speech, it’s still the government that puts it in the most peril.
Reporters Without Borders recently released its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, in which it ranks 180 countries on a variety of free speech issues such as surveillance, censorship, and crackdowns on espionage and whistleblowers. The United States fell two spots this year to 43rd in the world.
Continue reading in Observer
On New Year’s Day, China Central Television (CCTV) unveiled its newest “soft power” entertainment media venture, whose purpose is to extend China’s global media influence. Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the overriding directive of this new collection of television stations and news agencies will be to “follow the party line and promote ‘positive propaganda as the main theme.’”
The CCTV announcement compounds the growing risk that increased Chinese investment will entice Hollywood into volunteering itself as a propaganda division of the Communist Party of China (CPC). And if these trends continue, the Western world’s outlet for Chinese dissenters will be closed.
China’s film industry has in recent years grown approximately 34% annually and generated $6.8 billion in 2015. While many applaud the very modest political reforms that sometimes complement China’s market liberalization, one should be wary of the country’s iron grip on its entertainment industry.
China’s industry players are inextricably bound to the CPC, as evidenced by the ascent of Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man. Jianlin’s successes are a product of quid pro quo arrangements between himself and the CPC’s top officials. Further, Jianlin is a delegate to the CPC congress and was a high-level advisor in China’s faux legislature from 2008 to 2013. Today, CPC delegate Jianlin can count several American awards shows, including the Golden Globes, the Billboard and American Music Awards, and even AMC Theaters as part of his recently accrued collection.
Continue reading at Forbes.
In its sixteen years under the Chavista regime, Venezuela never had it worse than it has had in the last three months. For years, stories have circulated about rigged elections, brutal responses to public demonstrations, disregard for the rule of law, and growing poverty and scarcity. However, since the death of Hugo Chavez and the ascent of Nicolas Maduro to the Miraflores Palace, the situation has worsened month after month.
On February 19th, the opposition mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, was arrested in his office by 50 heavily armed agents of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, without a warrant. Hours after the arrest, President Nicolas Maduro offered one of his favourite excuses: Ledezma was part of an American plot to overthrow the government. No formal charges were given, according to Ledezma’s lawyer. Arbitrary detentions were commonplace in Chavista Venezuela, but this was the first time that a major political authority figure has been publicly detained without a warrant.
About a month ago, former president of Colombia Andrés Pastrana denounced the existence of La Tumba (The Grave), an underground prison located five stories below the Bolivarian Intelligence Service headquarters in Caracas. This seven cell, windowless complex is allegedly used by the Maduro regime to unlawfully detain and torture dissidents, most of them young students. One year ago, these dissidents would have been sent to Ramo Verde military prison, but now it seems that the government is looking for a greater show of strength in order to discourage dissenting voices.
Read the rest at City A.M. …