Can the Divide Between Free and "Unfree" Media be Bridged?


Public Affairs, 212-854-2650
New York, Oct. 28, 2010—When it comes to the global media, much attention has been paid to the role it has played in fostering economic development and creating news outlets whose influence and reach spread beyond a country’s borders.
The conventional wisdom has been that such efforts are directed at exporting values or a particular point of view. Those and other assumptions will be challenged Nov. 3 by panelists at Columbia University, who will examine the role of domestic and foreign media in China.
The panel, to be moderated by Professor Benjamin Liebman, Director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies at Columbia Law School, is the opening session of a two-day conference “A Free Press for a Global Society” to be held Nov. 3-4.
“There is a perception that the world seamlessly divides into countries where there are ‘free media’ and those where the media are not free,” Liebman said. “The issue is far more nuanced and complex than that.”
Liebman has extensively studied the ever-evolving Chinese media landscape, and will examine the interaction between Chinese media and the courts in an edition of China Quarterly in 2011.
Also on the panel is Nazila Ghanea, a lecturer in international human rights law at the University of Oxford; Peter Herford, executive director of the International Media Institute, Shantou University; Qin Liwen of the Modern Media Group in China; and Fred Teng, chief executive officer of NewsChina, an English-language magazine.
Liebman will lead a conversation about the role the media have played in China’s social evolution, what is the appropriate level of access and regulation in societies undergoing rapid change, and whether there are important voices in China and elsewhere being overlooked by the global media.
“These issues, while especially relevant in China, are also a way to broaden the discussion about what is happening to the media elsewhere as we become an increasingly globalized world,” Liebman said.

Other topics Liebman said may be discussed:
  • In what ways do new media technologies and the expansion of media freedom affect rapidly changing societies?
  • Many systems for controlling the media in non-democracies rely on distinctions between areas that are on and are off limits. Can such distinctions be maintained in increasingly complex societies?   Is this a correct way of understanding media regulation in China?  
  • Western media have noted a tightening environment for media regulation in China in the past few years. Yet, at the same time there is arguably more information available to the average Chinese citizen today. How can this paradox be reconciled?
A live webcast of the panel will be at, 9 a.m. ET on Nov. 3.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.