Newsreel II

NEW YORK — Internet giants Yahoo, Microsoft and Google were today challenged to reveal which words they have banned from blogs and Web searches in China.

Amnesty International has accused the companies of ‘corporate complicity’ in suppressing the internet in the Communist state.

Amnesty UK director Kate Allen said: ‘Yahoo, Microsoft and Google have all facilitated or colluded in China’s censorship of the net.” [But Yahoo, Microsoft and Google] claim they are obeying local law[.]’

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is warning churches and nonprofits that improper campaigning in the upcoming political season could endanger their tax-exempt status.

An [OMB Watch] report criticizing the IRS enforcement program predicts a chilling effect on free speech and accuses the agency of using vague standards and lacking deadlines to complete inquiries.

Lois G. Lerner, director of the IRS’ exempt organizations division, counters that the agency is only enforcing the law.

Stephen Clark, “IRS Warns Churches to Stay Neutral on Politics”, Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2006

WASHINGTON — A new Campaign Finance Institute [‘CFI’] study of twelve leading interest groups in the last three federal election cycles was unveiled today at a major conference on Nonprofits in Federal Elections[.]

The study shows that the groups deploy three different types of organization — PACs, 527s, and 501(c) advocacy entities — in their efforts to influence federal elections and public policy … The CFI analysis presents much new information about the major role played by 501(c) … organizations in elections[.]

This study suggests that [laws] that do not comprehensively address the whole framework of disclosure and regulation for interest groups will inevitably have unintended consequences.


CARACAS — A U.S.-based press freedom group said Wednesday that President Hugo Chavez is using the courts and legal reforms to weaken journalists critical of his leftist government.

The [high-profile] journalists [facing criminal charges for offenses ranging from libel to homicide] claim government-friendly prosecutors and judges have targeted them with trumped-up charges to silence their criticism. Government officials deny the allegations, countering that Venezuela’s justice system is completely autonomous.

BEIJING – Only a few years ago, Chen Guancheng, a blind man who taught himself the law, was hailed as a champion of peasant rights who symbolized China’s growing embrace of legal norms.

All that changed last year, when he organized a rare class-action lawsuit against the local government for forcing peasants to have late-term abortions and be sterilized.  Mr. Chen, 35, is now a symbol of something else: the tendency of Communist Party officials to use legal pretexts to crush dissent.

His case is typical of efforts to punish lawyers, journalists, and participants in environmental, health and religious groups who expose abuses or organize people in a manner officials consider threatening.

Since he got into trouble, Mr. Chen has relied on a network of scholars and lawyers in Beijing to defend him.

But the law does not protect those who offend the powerful.

Joseph Kahn, “Advocate for China’s Weak Crosses the Powerful”, New York Times, July 20, 2006

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.