An article that appeared yesterday in AsiaMedia reports on the third annual China Blogger Conference, with an interesting note on how blogging has helped counter the country's corruption:
After [Zola, a panelist and blogger,] investigated and wrote in April about a couple who refused to accept a below-market price from a real estate development company, traditional Chinese media outlets and overseas press such as The New York Times and Time magazine's The China Blog picked up the story. The issue wasn't only about a big company's business practices, but also about the local government's collusion with businesses in the name of economic growth. According to a Washington Post report, with nationwide media attention, local officials worked to reach a compromise; the developers increased their offer with a ground-floor apartment affording space for the couple's restaurant business and $120,000. The couple accepted. Beijing Youth Daily's weekly tabloid, yWeekend, celebrated the incident as the "birth of citizen journalism."
Zola, who goes by Zhou Muguang when he’s not blogging, has been contacted by other Chinese citizens battling eviction orders all over the country, according to Reuters. Given that traditional media outlets are barred from reporting on high-profile corruption cases, bloggers may be the only hope for those whose land is seized by developers in collusion with local governments.
The Reuters article notes other instances when citizen journalists have stepped in, like demonstrations and disasters. But it also reports that the less rigid restrictions on the Internet have given journalists and impostors an avenue for exploitation:
Authorities jailed four men in October who tried to blackmail a local official by threatening to write incriminating information about government abuse of power in land usage.Devin Stewart wrote previously about a survey which found that the credibility of Internet media in China is actually derived from its anonymity. At what point will impostors and blackmailers impede the work of sometimes anonymous citizen journalists trying to cover sensitive issues, and what sort of regulations could prevent this?
In January, a local reporter for a Beijing-based newspaper was beaten to death by hired thugs during an investigation into an unlicensed coal mine in Shanxi province. Officials there said he lacked accreditation and suggested he may have been seeking payoffs in return for not reporting problems at the mine.