By Quentin Choy
June 24, 2021
In seemingly serendipitous fashion, the United States and China took measures in silencing media outlets of their geopolitical enemies, with the U.S. seizing media websites in Iran and with China forcing a Hong Kong newspaper to shut down. This piece aims to look at the way that the West and the United States viewed and covered both shutdowns, by two of the most powerful nations on Earth.
The Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, a critic of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government was forced to shut down following raids on the publication’s offices and the arrest of top editors. Many believe that the raids were a result of investigations of Chinese officials by the outlet.
On the shutting down of the newspaper, President Biden said “people in Hong Kong have the right to freedom of the press. Instead, Beijing is denying basic liberties and assaulting Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic institutions and processes, inconsistent with its international obligations.”
He also went on to describe the paper’s shutdown as “a sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world.”
In Iran, the United States blocked and seized websites that they deemed as spreading “misinformation” and its support for terrorism. If the newly-elected Iranian president was already sanctioned by the U.S. before he was even elected, then this move by the U.S. only makes logical sense. Websites, news channels, and satellite channels were also seized including those supported by Houthi rebels in Yemen, who Iran supports.
A statement by the Department of Justice who led the seizure of the Iranian websites stated that the stations were “disguised as news organizations or media outlets, targeted the United States with disinformation campaigns and malign influence operations.”
While the loss of Apple Daily is indeed tragic, it is an act of political on the part of the Chinese government in the same way that the seizure of Iranian websites was done on the part of the United States. The way that the two seizures are covered is that the Iranian seizures are justified since they threaten U.S. national security and spread misinformation.
However, no matter what your thoughts are on the Chinese Communist Party, can they not justify their shutting down of Apple Daily in the same way to the Chinese public as well? National security and misinformation can be legitimate, but they can so easily be used as covers from hypocrisy in the pursuance of geopolitical goals and power dynamics.
Again, Apple Daily’s shutdown is a loss to press freedom and democratic reform in Hong Kong, but the United States engages in similar conduct in other nations. When it comes to press freedom, the United States may be better than China, but they certainly aren’t pure in press freedom.
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