The Practice of Free Speech: America versus China

Edit: An earlier version of this post did not include graphs and relevant details of the personal poll I conducted. That has since been changed. 

A free and robust media is deeply integrated into our everyday life; something that is true in most, if not all Western societies. Freedom of expression is seemingly an obvious right every citizen is entitled to, but it is in fact a foreign sentiment in many countries like North Korea and Cuba. In nations like the United States, a censored press is unconstitutional but nations like China, censorship is not only blatant but also accepted. This highlights a stark contrast in media institutions between two countries and poses interesting ethical dilemmas. For the purposes of this post, it’ll specifically compare the practice of free speech between United States and China, exploring the right to expression (or lack of) and whether or not this is a journalistic or a basic universal privilege.

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Advancing the Story: The deadly question

A few weeks ago, The Atlantic published a lengthy article that explored the death penalty in Texas and how state jurors “must first decide if the person will be a future danger” before someone could be sentenced to death. Texas jurors must answer the question “whether there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society.” In other words, the law is asking its citizen to predict behavior.

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What I learned from Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy took over our ethics class the past few weeks and it has been both refreshing and interesting to have a new perspective and voice on the topic. During this time, we touched upon a variety of dilemmas and subjects such as the algorithms used by social media giants like Facebook, media ownership and of course, the presidential election. He brought in guest speakers like Seth Gitell and Susan Ryan-Vollmar to discuss PR ethics and the role of LGBTQ media respectively.

But one discussion stuck with me the most — a sexual assault case reported by the Huntington News.

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Ethical Angle of an Event: America Couldn’t Stump the Trump

Dina Kraft, a faculty member at the Northeastern School of Journalism, began a post-election discussion panel with the sombre notion everyone woke up today to a different America we knew from yesterday. It was a statement that admittedly dismissed any Trump supporters in the room but one I completely related to (even if my Canadian passport is a ticket out of this country).

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Personal Ethics Code: Making the decision process a little easier

A journalist, of course, serves the public interest but he or she is also a decision-maker in a myriad of ways. Some choices will be easy but other times, you may find yourself picking the lesser of two evils.

It’s important to remember that our vocation is more than just scribbling words on a page but the nature of our work has impact on real people with real lives. It sounds obvious, I know; but that is the precise reason why the media need to better understand the process of decision-making. With that said, I’ve written my own personal ethics code I feel I should abide by as a journalist.

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When the government says shhh to the media

A free and robust media is deeply integrated into our everyday lives; something that is true in most, if not all, Western societies. However, when we travel across the globe to countries like China, that sentiment is suddenly a foreign one.

It’s difficult to nail down a single case study that illustrates exactly how the Chinese government censors its media. Instead, it’s better illustrated through a handful of examples. For starters, access to Western social media platforms are blocked. Yes, Google included. Of course there are alternatives that people use, one being Weibo — the equivalent to Twitter — but you can forget about posting what you had for lunch that day on Instagram or sharing the awesome concert you’re at on Snapchat. But even then, the government is closely monitoring the forums that are allowed.
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