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By Jesusemen Oni, Adrianna Zhang, Milan Nesic, Jonathan Muriithi
In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, China sought to block news of the rapidly spreading virus, detaining those who tried to speak out. But in the months that followed, as the pandemic ravaged families and economies worldwide, Beijing sought to reset its public image through foreign media, research published Wednesday by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) shows.
A survey of 54 journalist unions in 50 countries found a rise in the number of countries reporting a visible Chinese presence in their media, from 64% to 76% in a year. In countries where China has offered support and training to local media, a higher percentage said coverage of Beijing was more favorable, the IFJ report found.
“The coronavirus story over the past 12 months has been successfully used by China to create a more positive image of China, in several countries,” Jeremy Dear, the IFJ’s deputy general secretary, told VOA.
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Survey respondents were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 coverage of China since the start of the pandemic, with 1 being the most negative and 10 being the most positive. The survey found that the continent whose China coverage saw the greatest positive change was Europe, scoring 6.3, while North America’s saw the most negative change, scoring 3.5.
Beijing’s influence was viewed most positively in Africa, where half of those surveyed described it as beneficial, and all reported China as a visible presence in their media.
Dear said China is “putting a lot more effort and resources into trying to shape the media narrative,” including pressure from ambassadors and diplomats, offers of media training or more lucrative employment contracts, and free content to news outlets under economic hardship. A drop in advertising revenue during the pandemic further added to shrinking newsrooms globally.
At the same time, Beijing sought to limit foreign media inside China, denying visas to journalists or expelling them. The measures came in response to the U.S. imposing visa caps on the staff of five Chinese-run outlets, including the Xinhua News Agency, and the U.K. media regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications) removing China Global Television Network (CGTN), saying the license holder did not have editorial responsibility for the network’s content. Ofcom regulates TV, radio, and video-on-demand sectors as well as fixed-line telecoms and mobiles.
Despite these “sometimes contradictory attempts by China to influence global media,” Dear said, “all of them have their purpose, trying to support a growing economic and political power of China and … (telling) one story, very centrally directed.”
China’s foreign ministry has defended its media outreach at a May 11 briefing. Hua Chunying, the foreign ministry spokesperson, said that as the world’s second-largest economy and biggest developing country, “of course we should have, and we deserve, a place in the international media landscape.”
“The U.S. has launched a disinformation attack on China under the pretext of media freedom,” Hua said, adding that China never targets other countries.
Hua noted that the U.S. “authorizes $300 million to be appropriated for each fiscal year to ‘counter the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party globally’.” Hua was referencing the proposed Strategic Competition Act of 2021, a Senate bill “to address issues involving the People’s Republic of China.”
Media analysts, however, have pointed to differences between state-run media such as CGTN and media funded by governments but editorially independent, such as the U.K.’s BBC and Germany’s Deutsche Welle. VOA and its sister networks, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), are funded by the U.S. Congress, but an editorial firewall protects them from political interference.
All countries to some extent “try to use soft power, of which media very often is, to improve their political and economic position in the world,” Dear said. “That is what China is doing, and it’s a reflection of its growing economic and political power.”
The pandemic gave Beijing an opportunity “to promote the socialist system and the leadership of the Communist Party as superior to the Western system of democracy, universal values, and freedom,” Dan Garrett, a former intelligence analyst at the Pentagon, told VOA. “You definitely have an aspect of the current information campaign from Beijing that is oriented towards discrediting Western media as biased, as racist, as anti-China.”
In all but three of the countries included in the IFJ research, China donated pandemic aid, medical supplies, and personal protective equipment. The IFJ report found that often the supplies described in local media as donations by Beijing had been purchased from China by governments.
In Serbia, the government has aligned itself with China since Beijing supported it during the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s and the NATO bombing of Serbian positions in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.
Early on in the pandemic, Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic visited Beijing, saying, “You didn’t fear NATO bombs. My visit shows we’re not afraid of the virus,” the IFJ report said.
China also provided supplies and the bulk of Serbia’s vaccines. In April, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said Serbia had received about 2.5 million doses of the Chinese-produced Sinopharm vaccine and slightly less than a million vaccines from all other manufacturers combined.
China’s influence and its backing by Belgrade “exist without any doubt,” said Dinko Gruhonjic, editor in chief of the Serbian media outlet VOICE and program director of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina.
“It is simply put as official propaganda, claiming that European Union and the West abandoned Serbia in need. And that the country would be doomed without the help of ‘Chinese brothers’ who provided sanitary materials, vaccines, and other means of help,” Gruhonjic told VOA.
“It was one of the dominant narratives in most pro-government media, including billboards placed around Belgrade in support of the alleged friendship between the Serbian and Chinese people,” Gruhonjic said.
The billboards appeared in Belgrade last year, saying “Thank you, brother Xi.” They were allegedly funded by a pro-government tabloid newspaper, according to RFE/RL.
The Serbian government owns or controls nearly all media in the country, the IFJ reported.
“The Serbian public accepts those narratives and propaganda. The majority consume state and pro-government media and is convinced that allies of Serbia are from the East of the globe and the enemies are from the West,” Gruhonjic said.
Besides noting an increased Chinese presence in their media, more than 80% of those surveyed worldwide flagged concerns over growing disinformation in national outlets.
Garrett, of the nongovernmental organization Securing Tianxia, said that China, Russia, and others “rely on individual citizens and individual newsreaders’ inability or a lack of time to comprehensively review media sources to get the full story from multiple different sources.”
“I think it is a very challenging problem for your average media consumer,” he added.
The IFJ report found that Beijing’s influence was viewed more positively in Africa than in any other continent.
China has offered media content, training, and resources to several African countries where local news outlets face economic hardships.
“China has really invested in its media in Africa, and specifically in Kenya so that they can have their own media houses to tell Chinese stories,” Eric Oduor, secretary-general of Kenya Union of Journalists, told VOA.
An earlier report by the IFJ found that in Kenya, most of the biggest outlets have content-sharing deals, including the Kenya Broadcasting Cooperation, which has a state-of-the-art studio built with Chinese funding.
The state-run CGTN and Xinhua News Agency have headquarters in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, where they develop and share content with local media outlets.
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“I don’t believe that there are any expectations that journalists (are) supposed to abide by,” Oduor said. When officials are in Kenya, like during President Xi Jinping’s visit, “they try to lobby and work with journalists and also media managers so that they can have space for their own stories.”
For the IFJ, its findings underscore the importance of independent news and media literacy and helping news managers understand the ethics of receiving free content from China.
“What we’re seeing here is a very centrally directed narrative, whether it’s about the Belt and Road Initiative, whether it’s about coronavirus, whether it’s about the Uyghurs, whether it’s about the South China Sea. All of these issues that are politically or economically important to China,” the IFJ’s Dear said. “That’s why journalism is so important. … It doesn’t just accept what any government says. It asks questions of that government. It gets other points of view.” (VOA/KB)
Receiving compliments is something that a majority of us enjoy. Compliments, after all, make us feel good about ourselves. Sometimes compliments intended to be flattering turn out to be a tremendous turn-off, and in some cases, they are insulting. 'Beauty with brains is one of those compliments. So, is 'beauty with brains' a compliment? Without further ado, I would confidently say- NO! It doesn't matter what your gender, colour, or identity is. The answer is clearly a no.
Beauty with a brain suggests that you can only have one of these qualities and that you are an 'exception' if you possess both. "Oh, Wow! You are a beauty with brains" is a phrase that women often hear. This statement is used when a female exhibits characteristics that indicate she is intelligent. People are taken aback if they see a wise and beautiful woman because women are stereotyped to be either beautiful or brainy. The concern with this is that it is naturally assumed that men are intelligent. Women, on the other hand, are supposed to have a natural beauty. If she isn't attractive according to the norms laid down by society, it is expected that she would at the very least be intelligent. When someone manages to be both, it is regarded as a significant accomplishment.
People are taken aback if they see a wise and beautiful woman because women are stereotyped to be either beautiful or brainy. | Photo by Unsplash
Women are being stereotyped into two attributes: being attractive and being intelligent, and they are being conditioned to think that these characteristics cannot exist together. When you tell someone that they are not beautiful, you are implicitly attempting to fit them into the so-called "beauty standards" that today's era is so preoccupied with maintaining. And that is a significant issue. We are not required to fit in; we should take the risk of being unusual.
Many movies, television series, and even advertisements depict the female lead as someone who is the attractive one, well-dressed, with a face full of makeup and lovely hair. On the other hand, the intelligent girl is usually the one with unkempt hair, strange fashion sense, and little to no makeup.
While our generation has been the target of insulting and sexist slurs that have caused us to question our abilities on several occasions, let us work together to reverse the trend. Let us educate each other that beauty and intelligence can coexist and that we are all beautiful in our way and don't need to fit in the so-called standards set by our draconian society.
Keywords: women mental health, beauty, brains, men, intelligence society
Malgudi, a small fictional town in South India has been part of the childhood of most Indians. It is an old, shabby, and peaceful town that is unruffled by politics. The stories set in this small town ring the sense of belongingness in the hearts of its readers. The familiar feeling that feels like home resonates with their soul. And teaches important life lessons to the readers through simple tales. Malgudi Days is one of the books that every Indian child should read. The book is a compilation of 32 short stories that paint a beautiful picture of small-town in India around the '60s and '70s
R. K. Narayan, one of the most well-known and popular writers within India and outside India is the creator of this town and the occurrences of this town. The stories follow the characters Swami and his friends through their everyday lives. Be it the story of fake astrologers who scam and loot the people by his cleverness, or the story of a blind beggar and his dog where the money blinded the man with greed; each story has a lesson to learn, morals and values hidden in it. As the stories are simple, easy to understand yet heart-touching it makes it easy for the kids to connect with each character and imagine the story as if the reader themselves were the protagonist of the story. In simple words, we can say that R.K. Narayan simply told stories of ordinary people trying to live their simple lives in a changing world.
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As written during the Indian Independence movements and finally published in 1943. The stories in the Malgudi days beautifully encapsulated the transitioning milieu of the British era to post-Independence India. Each of the stories portrays a facet of life in Malgudi and simultaneously a life in an Indian town. R.K. Narayan was one of the first writers who pioneered Indian writings in the English language and the book was later republished outside India in 1982 by Penguin Classics. Thus, the book enjoyed a worldwide audience. The New York Times even described the virtue of the book as "everyone in the book seems to have a capacity for responding to the quality of his particular hour. It's an art we need to study and revive."
The beautiful storytelling of the book was assisted by beautiful illustrations allowing the children to let their imagination teleport them to the world of Malgudi. All the illustrations in the book were illustrated by the world-renowned cartoonist, R.K. Laxman who is also R.K. Narayan's younger brother. The illustrations complimented the scenes from the stories and excited the children, keeping them engaged in reading the book for hours.
The illustrations complimented the scenes from the stories.Pixabay
The short stories from Malgudi Days were later adapted into a television adaptation in 1986. This show was directed by actor and director Shankar Nag. It was filmed both in Hindi and English, containing 54 episodes and the first 13 episodes respectively. Later the series was revived for additional 15 episodes. The show featured several popular celebrities from the Kannada film industry of those days – Girish Karnad, Vishnuvardhan, Ananth Nag, Arundhati Nag and Vaishali Kasaravalli, to name a few. The series was premiered on the Doordarshan channel and became the window into the town Malgudi for many. The show did not only excel in its storyline the TV adaptation elevated the storytelling as the show was technically very sound and stood out in its fantastic detailing in terms of locations and sets. With the cinematography being creative The Malgudi days- TV series once again warmed the hearts of both young ones and adults.
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Malgudi- our childhood home
Malgudi days hold a special place in the hearts of whoever has read the book as a child. With the detailed descriptions of the town and stories one almost gets a feeling that they've visited the place themselves. The characters, Swami and his friends feel like they were all readers' childhood friends. The surreal feeling of being home in the world of Malgudi. The world of Malgudi is intimate, warm, lifelike, and engaging. The setting is modern, and the life portrayed in these stories is contemporary. Still, there is an old-time air about It. R K Narayan once described Malgudi as "Malgudi is where we all belong, and where we wish we lived."
Keywords: Malgudi days, Malgudi, R K Narayan, R K Laxman, storytelling, our childhood home Malgudi
Well, if you'll notice then the moon takes twenty-nine days to complete its lunar cycle, whereas women's menstrual cycle is generally 28 days! Coincidence? I think, not.
It is believed that when a woman goes through her menstrual cycle, she goes through the different lunar energies. In fact, in ancient times it was said that the natural rhythm of women was to menstruate under a new moon and ovulate under a full moon.
At the same time, it is also believed that the cycle and its stages are connected to different seasons, namely, spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
Let us see how the lunar cycle is related to a woman's menstrual cycle!
It must be noted that the menstruation period is during the new moon period and also during the winter season. It is said that this is a reflective phase; a phase of silence, introspection, and solitude. During this phase, a woman's body is more sensitive, and so they're able to connect with it and hear the messages it gives. Interestingly, this is also the time when a woman naturally recycles energy as she menstruates, and hence, it's also the for their rest and recovery.
The Crescent moon represents the pre-ovulation period. This is also the season of spring, and so the time corresponds to an increase in physical energy. During this period, a woman's mental strength is at its peak and their thoughts are much clearer. At the same time, emotions are more stable during this period, and because of which women tend to be more social and outgoing.
This phase of the moon represents ovulation, and the season associated with this phase is summer. It must be noted that this period is full of energy and vitality. At the same time, this period plays a significant role in the lives of women because it's actually a fertile phase in all aspects of their life, be it personal or professional. During this period, the self-confidence and self-esteem in women tend to rise, and along with this, an increase in their sex drive can be seen very well.
This phase of the moon represents pre-menstruation, which is also associated with the autumn season. During this period, a woman's physical energy starts to decline. Metaphorically, just like a tree sheds its leaves, a woman, too, feels the need to let go of anything that is not benefiting her. At the same time, memory and the ability to concentrate decrease in this period.
I hope, now you will not think of the moon just as a celestial body, but as a companion in the lives of women!
Keywords: Women pre-Menstruation, Feminine, women Health Fitness, the moon represents the pre-ovulation period, period and moon cycle.