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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Total control

When ya got it, ya got it October 14, 2021 at 3:14 a.m.

It's easy to get frustrated with the state of journalism in America, especially if the evening cable shows are on. But better to have a free press than the alternative.

For all the grief Americans give journalists on the radio, in the press, on television or online, the United States still has a trove of investigative reporters looking into everything from government mishaps to corporate corruption. And they're free to do just that. Thanks to a lovely creation called the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (James Madison, father thereof.)

But journalists in other countries don't have the same protection. In fact, nations like Russia and Red China continue to curtail their journalists and have nearly total control over the media landscape. You'll know what Big Brother wants you to know and nothing more. Or less.

The latest move in Beijing is a proposal to ban all privately owned news groups.

"China has proposed banning all news organisations that are not directly funded by the Communist Party," The Daily Mail reports. "The new law, drafted by the National Development and Reform Commission, would ban any private investment in 'news gathering, editing, and broadcasting'. It marks the ruling CCP's latest crackdown on private enterprise, after the country's booming tech sector and billionaire owners were hammered earlier this year."

You have to love the linguistic gymnastics. There's the National Development and Reform Commission, which would reform, all right. But national development? Only from one perspective. Which reminds us of the young Chinese communist who tried to argue his country had the most free elections, especially when compared to Western nations, because how free can your elections be if the wrong side wins?

This proposal might make sense for the CCP. Why not cut out the middleman? Here, read this. If you know what's good for you.

This shouldn't come as any big surprise given China's expanding control over the last few years. A social credit system? Tightening the reins and essentially abolishing democracy in Hong Kong years before such was scheduled? Reining in the booming tech sector and billionaires? When your grip on power constantly depends on a lack of others to challenge your legitimacy, you can't let powerful folks get too cheeky. They might get ideas. Ideas are dangerous.

This net appears designed to catch all forms of media, too. Newspaper, radio, television, online (or what passes for online in Red China) all get snagged in the fine print. The Daily Mail reports some of the wording in this policy amounts to a wide and almost complete ban on private funding in all types of media.

Not to be outdone, there's word out of Russia that the Kremlin is stepping up its assault on independent news, too.

"Hours after a Russian newspaper editor received the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to 'safeguard freedom of expression,' the Russian government made another move to muzzle that expression," The New York Times reports. "Nine activists and journalists, including prominent Russian-language correspondents for the BBC and the American-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, were declared 'foreign agents' by Russia's Justice Ministry."

Those activists and journalists will have to deal with onerous disclosure requirements and attach a lengthy disclaimer to each social media post.

Vladimir Putin has been a busy man over the last couple of years, cracking down on LGBTQ+ citizens, reworking whatever document the nation pretends to follow so he can stay in power forever, and pushing down on what few journalists have the courage to criticize the government.

Why bother pretending to allow dissenting voices? Supreme Leader Putin has never been one to care about appearances. And we all know his grip over the media in Russia is almost absolute. Remember, this is a country where members of the opposition frequently take their own lives by shooting themselves in the back of the head twice. Or maybe the Kremlin just poisons your underwear. You've got to be flexible with these things.

It's no better for reporters in North Korea or Cuba or other authoritarian regimes. But controlling the press is a requirement for absolute authority.

We've noted several polls lately about how many (or how few) Americans trust the media. And for cause. But an independent press is part of a free country. To see what happens in a country without a free press, we have a couple of examples that we could suggest.

Print Headline: Total control

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