While throttling domestic dissent, the regime also set about trying to control the information circulating internationally by harassing China-based foreign correspondents. On 18 March, the Chinese foreign ministry announced that the government was expelling at least 13 US journalists working for the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. RSF_en Democracies need “reciprocity mechanism” to combat propaganda by authoritarian regimes Three months after the first reports of coronavirus cases were posted on Chinese social media and began circulating within civil society, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) looks back at the way the Chinese state, in its obsession with complete control over information, has cracked down relentlessly on all independent information outlets. China: Political commentator sentenced to eight months in prison Help by sharing this information The doctor and whistleblower Li Wenliang (left), video-blogger Fang Bin (centre) and the lawyer and journalist Chen Qiushi embody the Chinese people’s thirst for the truth (photo: Nicolas Asfouri / AFP – composite image D. Bastard / RSF). Fang Bin, an ordinary textile businessman living in Wuhan, never regarded himself as a journalist until he, too, felt the need to inform his fellow citizens about the real situation in the city behind the images supplied by the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machine. The attention that the reports by these two video-bloggers elicited in China reflects the deep interest in reliable and independently-reported information felt by Chinese citizens, who are drowning in state propaganda. The need is more than justified, given that just before these initial videos, in a speech on 20 January, President Xi had urged officials to “reinforce public opinion management.” Receive email alerts June 2, 2021 Find out more In his last video, broadcast live on 4 February, Chen interviewed a Wuhan resident whose father had succumbed to the coronavirus. His Weibo account was deleted two days later. On 7 February, his parents were told that he was “in quarantine.” His family has received no news of him since then. Attacks on foreign media In his first video report on 25 January, he documented the saturation of the hospitals. It showed bodies of coronavirus victims inside buses that had been turned into improvised hearses. You can hear Fang count: “Five, six, seven eight… Eight bodies in five minutes (…) So many dead!” The video also registered hundreds of thousands of views before the censors took it down. ChinaAsia – Pacific Condemning abusesProtecting journalistsOnline freedomsMedia independence Covid19ImprisonedCitizen-journalistsWhistleblowersFreedom of expression to go further He continued to report mounting harassment by the security forces until his last 12-second video on 9 February, which simply showed a roll of paper on which eight characters had been calligraphed. They said: “Let all citizens resist! Power to the people!” Nothing more has been heard from Fang since then. Thirst for reliable information News Toe the line News With everything tidied up both at home and abroad, Beijing now just has to deploy its massive propaganda and disinformation apparatus with the aim of making everyone forget that it was in the centre of China that the virus first got out of control and that three deadly weeks went by before Beijing listened to the whistleblowers. News Warning value After testing positive for Covid-19 on 1 February, the young doctor died in the early hours of 7 February. Online posts announcing his death received more than 1.5 billion views on Weibo. A photo of him wearing a face mask went around the Chinese blogosphere with a hashtag indicative of the Chinese population’s mood and its feeling of being gagged. Used in more than 2 million posts before being censored, the hashtag was #WomenYaoYanlunZiyou – “We want freedom of expression.” The fate suffered by Fang and Chen served as a warning. A new set of even more draconian regulations that took effect on 1 March allowed Beijing to tighten the vice even more on social media. More than 450 Internet users have been detained since January for sharing information about the coronavirus that the authorities regard as “false rumours.” Anyone trying to transmit a message or information deviating from the line set by the Party leadership was to be stopped. The official press was given orders. Toe the line. Two famous political commentators, Guo Quan and Xu Zhiyong, were detained in February. A third, Xu Zhangrun, was put under house arrest. The latest issue of the magazine Ren Wu, a sister publication of People’s Daily, was pulled from newsstands on 10 March because of an interview in which the head of the emergency department at Wuhan Central Hospital, Ai Fen, criticized the censorship imposed on doctors. But they were also seen by the authorities. Two days later, on 1 January, Li and seven other doctors were questioned. Li was grilled for several hours and, on 3 January, the police forced him to sign a statement recognizing that he had “spread false rumours.” March 12, 2021 Find out more China’s Cyber Censorship Figures In other words, this independent reporting by Chinese citizens turned journalists was regarded by the Chinese state apparatus as intolerable. The vice was inexorably tightening. Chen expressed his fears in a 30 January video that RSF reposted together with some background information: “I’m afraid,” he said. “Before me, there’s the virus. And behind me, the legal and administrative power of the Chinese state.” As journalistic freedom has been reduced to the barest minimum within China’s traditional media, it is ordinary citizens who usually step into the breach in such cases. In this case, the first was Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, where the first coronavirus cases were seen in November, although no one understood the nature of the illness at the time. Li was the first to blow the whistle on the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic. Armed with the photo of a test, Li spoke about the ongoing epidemic for the first time on 30 December with former faculty of medicine students in a private discussion group on the messaging service WeChat. The alarm was sounded. His messages were shared very widely on the microblogging website Weibo. China is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index. From the time of the first alert, there were people who became absorbed by the crisis. They included Chen Qiushi, a lawyer from the far northeast province of Heilongjiang who had made a name for himself in the Chinese blogosphere with videos of the demonstrations in Hong Kong that he had shot a few months earlier. He boarded a train to Wuhan on 23 January in order to get his information at the source. On 12 March, it was reported that Ren Zhiqiang, a political commentator and Chinese Communist Party member, had disappeared after criticizing the regime’s failings. His family said he was being held near Beijing. Follow the news on China Gagged March 25, 2020 – Updated on May 6, 2020 Coronavirus: The information heroes China silenced News Fang, the textile businessman turned reporter, had meanwhile reported in a video posted on 2 February that the police had confiscated his laptop and had interrogated him at length. Two days later, he reported in a live video from his home that it was surrounded by plainclothes policemen. Around the same time, complying with the latest propaganda department directives saying the virus’s Chinese origins should be questioned, the English-language China Daily newspaper censored an article published on 28 February in which the famous epidemiologist Zhang Wenhong voiced doubt about the theory that the virus could have been imported from abroad. Organisation ChinaAsia – Pacific Condemning abusesProtecting journalistsOnline freedomsMedia independence Covid19ImprisonedCitizen-journalistsWhistleblowersFreedom of expression April 27, 2021 Find out more “Dr. Li was like many within the Chinese population who want to report the reality of what is going on and alert their fellow citizens about government negligence,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The coronavirus crisis has drawn attention to the deep thirst for reliable information within Chinese society, which is saturated with propaganda. Xi Jinping’s government has responded with deadly brutality.” After getting their hands on the list of fixers and other Chinese employees working for these newspapers, and for Time and Voice of America, the Chinese authorities said on 20 March that it had given orders for the contracts of at least seven of these employees to be rescinded. “What kind of journalist would you be if you didn’t dare go to the front line?” he asked in a video shot outside Wuhan’s Hankou station. In the following days, Chen went around the city’s hospitals covering the chaos, interviewed the families of victims and visited an exhibition centre turned into a quarantine zone. His videos were viewed by hundreds of thousands of people despite being quickly censored on Weibo and WeChat.
Korean Air, the largest airline from South Korea that flies to 123 destinations and connects 43 countries, will connect the South Korean capital Seoul and Zagreb three times a week from September this year, until the end of summer and winter flights.The Seoul – Zagreb route will be direct until the end of the summer flight schedule, and from the winter flight schedule the route will return via Zurich (Seoul-Zagreb-Zurich-Seoul). Korean Air will fly to Zagreb in September and October on an Airbus A330-200 aircraft on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing from Seoul (ICN) at 11:05, arriving in Zagreb at 15:45. Return from Zagreb will be at 17:00 and arrival in Seoul the next day at 10:30.From the winter flight schedule, Korean Air will fly a Boeing 787-9 – Dreamliner aircraft with a capacity of 269 seats. The line will fly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with departure from Seoul at 11:25, arrival in Zagreb at 14:55, from Zagreb the plane will go to Zurich at 17:00, it will arrive in Zurich at 18:40 from where it will leave at 20: 55 to go to Seoul where he arrives at 15:35. This is the third year-round flight from Zagreb to Asia, namely, Emirates flies once a day to Dubai and Qatar Airways twice a day to Doha.The mentioned line Seoul – Zagreb comes at the time of the tourist “boom” of Zagreb and a significant increase in the number of tourists from South Korea – almost half a million of them visited Croatia last year. In addition, another new line in Zagreb will contribute to an additional increase in Franjo Tuđman Airport traffic, which has been continuously recorded since the opening of the new passenger terminal. Thus, Zagreb Airport recently welcomed this year’s millionth passenger, 13 days earlier than ever in history, and from the beginning of the year until today, a cumulative increase in the number of passengers of 11% has been recorded.
Much like his position implies, sophomore forward Nikola Jovanovic is always moving forward. Hailing from Belgrade, Serbia, Jovanovic came to the United States in order to pursue a career in basketball.His father played professionally in Europe for 15 years and gave Jovanovic his first exposure to the game.“My dad used to be a professional basketball player for 15 years but he never pushed me to play basketball or something like that, it came naturally to me,” Jovanovic said. “I remember I was like 10 years old, and I was watching his highlights and I took his arm and I asked him to make me practice and so he assigned me to a school basketball academy for one year and then to the Red Star Club and I stayed there for seven years.”Though his father never pushed him to play basketball, Jovanovic says his dad watches all of his games online despite a nine-hour time difference.“I always get a brief report after every game, something good and something bad,” Jovanovic said. “Usually, even if I play really well he always finds something that I need to do better, which really helps.”Jovanovic didn’t start playing forward until a growth spurt prompted his coaches to encourage him to give the position a try.“I’ve only been playing forward for the last three years because I’ve recently grown up,” Jovanovic said. “I was always behind my generation in physical strength so I was always playing two guard, three guard, sometimes point guard. When I turned 16 I was 6[-foot-]7 and coaches were starting to push me to play forward and every year I grew an inch and now I’m 6[-foot-]11 and now I’m always playing forward.”Jovanovic’s skill and growth garnered him a lot of attention and faced him with a difficult decision when he turned 18. He could either play professionally in Serbia or come to the United States and play college basketball.“My decision for college was very difficult because I was coming from Serbia and I had a bunch of offers but when I was looking at USC as a school and a basketball program in this town I couldn’t find anything better,” Jovanovic said. “USC was the obvious choice.”Jovanovic says he is glad he ended up in Los Angeles because he can see that head coach Andy Enfield and USC have already improved his play in just two seasons.“[Coach Enfield] is like my second dad,” Jovanovic said. “He improved my game systematically and individually. I got a better feeling for the game. I improved my shooting dramatically and I think my game overall got better. Especially since when I came in as a freshman I got the opportunity to play right away.”Jovanovic chose USC over offers from schools including Arizona, Vanderbilt, Columbia, Gonzaga, Washington and Oregon. Though he has experienced success in the States thus far, he admits that it was never his plan to leave Serbia.“I never saw myself in the States because I was playing professionally right when I turned 18 and they offered me a six year contract,” Jovanovic said. “But when you play pro over there you’re not able to go to school so I wasn’t able to get a degree and play basketball at a high level at the same time, you have to pick one of the two. I figured in the United States everything is balanced so you can do both at the same time.”Despite the long distance and cultural differences that separate Los Angeles and Serbia, Jovanovic said he had a very easy transition thanks to his teammates. He is especially close to fellow Serb, junior forward Strahinja Gavrilovic.“He is from Serbia as well and he is one year older than me and he really helped me to adapt and get a feeling for USC,” Jovanovic said. “The adjustment has been good, especially with great teammates and all the coaches.”The star forward hopes to earn a degree in business and work in banking investments and stocks should a career in the NBA not work out. Nonetheless, he is confident that he has a future in basketball.“Hopefully it takes me to the NBA, we’ll see after that,” Jovanovic said. “I think I have a bright future so hopefully that works out.”Jovanovic has enjoyed following the Clippers and the Lakers since moving to Los Angeles. Aside from his father, who is his biggest role model, he looks up to current NBA stars Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and his friend and former Trojan standout Nikola Vucevic.“I like all of those players of course, but I want to build up my own style of game,” Jovanovic said.Though Jovanovic and the Trojans have struggled this season, posting an 11-18 overall and 3-14 conference record, he is excited about the promise his team has shown.“We’re the youngest team in the top five power conferences and we are mainly a freshman and sophomore squad,” Jovanovic said. “We’re so young and talented but we have a lot of potential. This year has been frustrating because maybe on paper we have better players but we lose close games because we are not able to score in the last five minutes and we have a lack of experience in our team but it’s going to turn around.”Jovanovic and the Trojans travel to Westwood on Wednesday to take on rivals UCLA in their last game of the season.