Monday, February 23, 2015

(Censored) up beyond all recognition

This illustration for The Chronicle of Higher Education is running in the current issue. It accompanies an essay by an associate professor from Virginia Commonwealth University relaying his experience attempting to teach some journalism classes at Northeast Normal University in China. As the professor soon came to realize, it's fairly difficult to teach about press freedom in a country that doesn't have much. Along with the concept of "press freedom," there were several other taboo subjects that he was warned to shy away from: one of them being the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Many of his students were unaware of the demonstration/massacre, even as they were approaching its 25th anniversary, due to the fact that the Chinese government has made sure to stifle public discussion of the event. I decided to use a heavily redacted text in the shape of a tank, along with an image of the famous "Tank Man" in front of it. It also helped to signify the fact that the professor was standing up to government censorship. He was able to use leaked diplomatic cables made public by Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks to have his students learn about Tiananmen, from U.S. State Dept cables that discuss the issue (apparently using a source that the U.S. government opposes, made it tolerable to Chinese authorities?). I was struck by the irony of a story criticizing China for quashing press freedom, discussing the use of leaked cables provided by Manning, who is now in prison in the U.S. for something that the press in this country has benefited so much from.
Thank you to Janeen, my AD on this one!

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