Tag Archives: North Korea

Asia’s human rights offenders: A look at Reporter Without Borders’ annual press freedom index

I promise, I am not becoming a China-hater. Despite what these last two posts may read, I have visited the country and think the people, cities and countryside of China are amazing. However, after joining Reporters Without Borders yesterday, I took a gander through their annual Press Freedom Index from 2008. I was shocked to see some of the more developed, thriving nations rock bottom on the list.

Which brings me back, of course, to China. How can a country so fraught with humanitarian issues be constantly congratulated by the U.S. government? How could they have been chosen to host the most important, influential and unifying sporting event in the world – the Olympics? They were given this honor even though Tibetans are continually enslaved in their own country, Falun Gong practitioners are tortured and imprisoned, and Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 167th out of 173 in terms of the rights journalists have in China.

North Korea Premier Kim Yong II Visits China

Human rights offenders Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) and North Korean Premier Kim Yong II

“Being a journalist in Beijing or Shanghai… is a high risk exercise involving endless frustration and constant police and judicial harassment,” reads a passage from the report. Although liberal media outlets are beginning to form, China has a long way to go if it wants to compete with its nearby neighbors such as Japan (29th), Taiwan (36th) or South Korea (47th). Even war-torn Sri Lanka beat them by two places.

Of course not all of Asia is booming with press freedom. Not surprisingly, North Korea was listed second from the bottom, where government propaganda rules and the population is largely cut-off from world happenings. Burma and Vietnam came in as the fourth and sixth worst rated countries, respectively. Eritrea, in Northeast Africa, came in at number one.

Still, China must reconcile what it wants to become and what it still inevitably is. While the country has made huge strides economically, pulling millions out of poverty, their successes have not come without a price. Human rights activists are imprisoned regularly, religious freedom is highly restricted (the constitution forbids any practice that may cause “disruption”to society) and the media struggles to produce independent journalism.

Human Rights Watch announced just today that on February 13 China placed new restrictions on Chinese news assistants to foreign correspondents, who risk being dismissed or losing their accreditation for engaging in “independent reporting.” The government also announced that it would create a blacklist for Chinese journalists who participate in “illegal reporting.”

Great nations are not only formed by swift economic growth and a reduction in poverty but by an open society where all citizens are free to express themselves and to strive for what they want to achieve. Great nations are those which respect the environment, engage in constructive dialogue with their allies and their foes, educate their children, and provide services to the poor and underprivileged.

I would never presume to list any of today’s countries as “great nations,” and certainly not my own. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give China a chance to improve themselves. After all, they haven’t been at this whole “developed country” thing for very long.

But still, certain issues just can’t wait to be dealt with. How many people will have to die before China’s human rights records improve?

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The job search starts here: A look at a few booming world economies

During a recent trip to the UK and Ireland, the economic crisis was on everyone’s lips. I happened to reach London just as the pound dropped into the toilet, and landed in Dublin to hear that 15 years of economic growth was for nought. And a friend of a friend from L.A. said that every time he calls his newspaper editor pal to ask him what he did that day, the answer is, “I laid some more people off.”

As we job hunters sit squarely planted on our derrieres in front of the TV, watching one side of the couch indent increasingly deeper, it sounds like there’s no hope left. But after a little research, I have decided not to book my trip home to my parent’s house quite yet. The economy may be floundering here, but what about there?

According to an October article on http://www.businesspundit.com, there are a few places on earth where it doesn’t cost 12 pounds/euros/dollars to buy a cheeseburger and where finding a job doesn’t mean waiting it out for the next ten months on food stamps. Here, their top ten, with my two cents thrown in.

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10. China (Although, I am skeptical of this one, considering the news of late): You see? Communism does work.

9. Brazil: An even better reason to start working on your tan.

8. Romania: Fine, you don’t speak Romanian, but they do have an award-winning gymnastics team!

7. Thailand: The most amazing sunsets in the world and great pad thai on the street for cheap. Just beware of the occasional coup.

6. North Korea: Okay, you might never be able to come home again, but at least the job security is for life! And if you ever get sick of hearing about nuclear missile developments, you can always risk it and hop the border to the South, where extremely well-paid English teaching jobs are in abundance.

5. Iran: Apparently some of the friendliest people in the world, who are very eager to invite foreigners (yes, even Americans) into their homeland. And yet another country with a powerful nuclear program (is this just a coincidence?).

4. Malaysia: I’ll give you ten dollars if you can correctly identify the exact location of this country, plus one fun-fact. Because I can’t.

3. Morocco: Long gone are the days of dusty roads and rigid religious-based rules. Females are free to walk the streets uncovered, the economy is booming and it’s close enough for a mini-vacation to Spain or France.

2. Armenia: Perhaps the reason Armenia is doing so well is because no one has ever heard of it. Or if they have heard of it, they never think about it. In reality, their international obscurity has meant not relying on outside governments to keep their economy afloat. And voilĂ , here they are at number two.

1. The United Arab Emirates: There’s more to this country than Dubai, despite what sex-on-the-beach obsessed Brits may think. This oil-rich, culturally diverse nation is worth not only a short trip, but being put on the list for your next job move. It may just be the world’s only sure thing.

Continued good luck to all those job seekers out there! This can’t possibly last forever…