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Reporting on the U.S. Campaign; China Tightens Web Rules; Reporting on Sensitive Issues

Aired February 1, 2008 - 20:30:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Becky Anderson in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
This week, the candidates, the contests. Why international news outlets are interested in the U.S. presidential campaign. A sensitive subject matter, the complexities and challenges of reporting on issues, like sex trafficking. And later, tightening the Web. China introduces new online video rules.

Well, first, this week, the field is narrowing, but the race is really just getting started. The contest is hotting (ph) up in the U.S. presidential campaign ahead of Super Tuesday, when voters in almost half of the country go to the polls to pick their party's presidential candidate.

Well, the withdrawal of some contenders has not only made the headlines at home, media outlets around the world are also closely following developments in the campaign months before November's vote.

So why so much interest from the international media? And what's happening in U.S. politics? And how do they explain the whole process of primaries and caucuses to their audiences?

Well, to set that, we're joined in the studio by Sean Maguire, political editor with Reuters. Also with us from Washington is CNN's U.S. affairs editor Jill Dougherty. And North American correspondent with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Kim Landers.

Let's start with you, Kim. Just how much interest is this story generating at home?

KIM LANDERS, CORRESPONDENT, AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION: Enormous interest, Becky. I mean, we have almost daily coverage, whether it's radio news, radio current affairs, program, television news, online blogs. And I think that's really because this is such an interesting race. It started off so wide open on both sides, both Democrat and Republican. And just the intricacies of how this system works in the United States really has our audience intrigued. It's such a terrific battle. And I think that they're really interested in how it all sort of plays out. Why does it go on so long?

ANDERSON: How do you go about telling or selling the story, then, to an international audience, Jill? Give us some examples, if you will, of what we're doing here at CNN.

JILL DOUGHERTY, U.S. AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, you certainly have the issues that you mention. The electoral college, how delegates work, the primaries, the caucuses. And you know, it's interesting because the United States, at least this administration, has made democracy promotion around the world one of its primary issues. And so, when you have the United States democracy under the glass, it's very interesting. I've been watching the response from our viewers. A lot of them are, you know, confused about how all of this works. And it is pretty arcane.

ANDERSON: What's made the difference this time do you think, Sean?

SEAN MAGUIRE, POLITICAL EDITOR, REUTERS: I think it's the fascinating cast of characters on the Democratic side. You're going to get a novelty, either the first woman or the first Black presidential candidate. And on the Republican side, you know, this amazing character McCain, this old grizzled veteran versus this very slick venture capitalist Romney. It's a fascinating human story.

ANDERSON: That explains it. And I'm going to be partisan here. It doesn't get much better than this for an organization like CNN. We can own this story, of course. And we got correspondents all over the state and the likes of Jill Dougherty as our U.S. affairs correspondent as well. How do you as an organization go about owning a story like this?

MAGUIRE: For us, it's all about making the linkages because we have a huge audience amongst financial professionals. And what they want to know is how's this going to affect me? So what we do is we join the dots between the politics and the economics, what's going to happen in the stock market, how it's going infect the investment environment. That's where we really pull things together. And that's our approach to, you know, trying to own the story from our perspective.

ANDERSON: How have the new media changed the way the story's reported, do you think, Kim?

LANDERS: I think it's played a huge part, whether it's the influence of the ability to raise money, for example. Some of these political campaigns, they certainly have - as far as Australia goes, I mean we don't see anything like this, sort of amount money being raised. We don't see this amount of coverage on online sites, what different websites. People blogging about things.

I mean, for us, the scale of the difference, I think, is one of the key parts of this story. I mean, look at some of these rallies that these candidates are attending. Tens of thousands of people at some of them turning up.

We just don't have anything like it. And we don't have such a big, long lead up time. And I think that long lead up time also allows a lot of those new media outlets, for example, to all choose little bits and pieces of what they're going to report and cover. There's just so much to get across.


MAGUIRE: Well, for us, it's about there are so many different new voices in the political arena now. And you - and there so much more color and life and so much more passion to politics because there's so much - a multiplicity of opinion out there.

And for us as journalists as well, being able to blog and write stories and do television, different ways of telling stories. You can bring new perspectives and new angles there. It's really, you know, an extra feather in the quiver.

ANDERSON: Let's talk about what we're reporting, Jill, because it's less about the issues at this point, isn't it, and more about the candidates and the characters out there?

DOUGHERTY: Well, at this point, that probably is the case, or at least a preponderance of reports would be. Because you have some pretty compelling characters. We just talked about them. That's really fascinating.

And the race is different because, of course, this is the primary season. And the people who are running are talking to their base. The - usually the true believers of their party.

But it's morphing now. And you're getting people, you know, McCain, and Obama, who are looking for the independent voters. So the issues are coming out, but I think at this point, that horse race, as we call it, is for good or ill is really the fascinating story.

ANDERSON: So how do you think this story is going to develop then for the media and therefore toward the audience at this point?

MAGUIRE: Well, it will remain fascinating. It's not clear that the Democratic race will narrow down necessarily before August before the convention. And obviously, if it doesn't, it remains a great story.

But even if it does become one Democrat against one Republican, then the campaigns start to evolve. The dirty tricks start to get played. The campaign ads start to get a little tricky. And then you've got surprise events.

What happens if the security situation in Iraq deteriorates? How will the candidates react? And I think that interplay of real life events and the campaign will be fascinating to watch.

ANDERSON: Kim, what happens, for example, after Super Tuesday if the appetite perhaps for this story wanes? How do you go about reselling and telling this story to the Australian public?

LANDERS: I think it will wane a wee bit, but I don't think it'll go away completely. And that is because for Australia, so much of our foreign policy, our defense relationships, for example, are intertwined with the United States. And we were one of the original countries in the coalition of the willing going into Iraq. We've just had a change of government in Australia. We're now pulling our combat troops out. And new prime minister is about to come to the United States for his first official visit.

So we still have a lot of interest, if you like, in the interconnectedness with the United States. And the presidential campaign is wrapped up in that, because there is going to be a change of administration here. And who will that affect our relationship, our involvement in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, for example?


DOUGHERTY: Yes, absolutely. I think that's really key. You know, I had a friend in Brazil, agree with him or not, who said that the president of the United States is kind of like the president of the world. I know.


DOUGHERTY: .that's kind of crazy - but he has a point. And so, what the president, whoever that's going to be, does as Kim was saying will resonate around the world in so many different areas. And that's another factor, I think, why the rest of the world is looking at this with great interest.


MAGUIRE: George Bush hasn't been a very popular president abroad. A lot of people abroad are looking to what happens after George Bush. They're looking for something new from America. And that's a big part of the interest in this election.

ANDERSON: To all of you, you can see how exhausting this campaign process is for the candidates. Let's remind ourselves our colleagues are also involved in that campaign process. Do you want to just explain, if you will, all of you, just how we are involved? Kim, I mean, sort of - what sort of impact is this having on your life covering this story?

LANDERS: Not a lot of sleep really. But it's thrilling to be able to go and visit so many of these places, to go to places like Iowa, or Nevada. Some of my colleagues who have just been in Florida, for example. The interesting thing for us is the ability and the willingness of the American people to speak their minds and tell us what they think. It's really - makes our job much easier, if you like.

But you know, it does remind us that these candidates are being - already going for about a year. And there's talk - such a long way to go. It is sort of intriguing to know, I mean, just how do they manage it? It's quite phenomenal.

ANDERSON: Final word, Jill?

DOUGHERTY: Yes. Well, you know, I was on the campaign trail a lot because I worked at the White House for a number of years with Bush senior and Clinton one. And so, it - you get tired, but it's very stimulating at the same time. It's fascinating.

But I think for me personally, a lot of the stories that I'm doing are on how American democracy works. And that has been an education for me, too, because this is a very different type of democracy in the United States. And it's unique. Some aspects are not, let's say, pure democracy. It's a different type of democracy. So explaining that to the world has been, and continues to be an education for me.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. Sean?

MAGUIRE: You need a lot of stamina to cover U.S. politics, that's for sure. But you can also get quite close to individual candidates and quite close to the border. I mean, we've been traveling with McCain on the straight talk express, on his bus. And it's great getting up close and getting a feel for who these people are.

And I think telling those sort of stories really brings home the American election to readers worldwide.

ANDERSON: Sean Maguire, Jill Dougherty, and Kim Landers, we thank you very much indeed for joining us.

Well, still to come here on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, reporting on a sensitive story. A journalist goes undercover to investigate sex trafficking in (INAUDIBLE). ITV News' correspondent Chris Rogers on his special assignment.


TIME STAMP: 2044:18

ANDERSON: Welcome back now. Going undercover to reveal the extent of the illegal sex trade operating between Eastern Europe and the U.K. This week, Britain's ITV News broadcast a special series by correspondent Chris Rogers, the result of a seven month long investigation involving secret filming and the selling off of a bogus website to highlight the extent of human trafficking.

Here is a sample of that report.


CHRIS ROGERS, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every day, another Romanian child or teenager goes missing. Hundreds are believed to be enslaved on Romania's human market.

(voice-over): We believe there are some underground brothels on this street here. And so we're going to head into them and see what we can find . We believe there are a number of traffic girls in this area.

Do you have some girls for me?


ROGERS: Some girls?



(voice-over): They are rented out for an hour.

I would like to (INAUDIBLE) some girls.

For a few hundred pounds for sale for good.


ANDERSON: Well, there is no doubt that reporting such a story poses many challenges. And I'm pleased to be joined now here in the studio by the ITV News correspondent Chris Rogers to discuss his special assignment.

First of all, congratulations because I think that was super piece, Chris.

ROGERS: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Walk us through how you achieved this?

ROGERS: It's very difficult. When we say a seven month investigation, that's seven months of filming in Britain, in Romania, and in the Czech Republic. That's also behind the scenes setting up, creating a character. I had to become a British brothel owner.

We had to set up websites. And we had to create business cards, stories. We had to have staff answering the phones in case gangs vetted us. And then it's finding the gangs.

And once you find the gangs that you want to expose, you can't just pop over to them and say hey, fancy a beer and chat about buying some girls. You won't walk away from that kind of approach.

So there was another team which I would really like to pay credit to. We can't identify them. The team filming it as well, the cameraman, he has to pose as a trafficker as well or a British brothel owner. And - but there was also team of gang experts who approach those gangs, got to know them, befriended them, won their trust. And then when they felt the time was right, they brought me in.

ANDERSON: All right, technically, I'm talking broadcast journalism here, what are the biggest challenges physically?

ROGERS: I think there's two challenges. The one that I was just talking about, trying to infiltrate an underworld gang in the Czech Republic is not easy. The other challenge for us was when we're actually in Romania. And we were secretly filming in the underground brothels in Bucharest, of which there are many, where we're offered girls between the ages of 16 and 25 for an hour, for a night, or for good. And then we decided to follow us -- some of the local traffickers started to follow us. So we had to leave Bucharest. They got suspicious.

We headed up to Yash. And we found a 14-year old girl, Monica. Now the question that we were posed with is we're with a charity who rescues these girls. And - but that involves questionable methods of trying to get away from the traffickers, because you can't trust the local police because they're tipped off. And as a journalist, do you become involved? And do you rescue that girl and help her get out of that situation? Or do you walk away and remain impartial and tell her story and tell the authorities?

And we did put a lot of consideration into it. And we believe that the right thing to do was to get her out of that situation and take her to safety.

ANDERSON: Where do you draw the line with an investigation like this between uncovering a story of exploitation and exploiting the subject in order to get a compelling story?

ROGERS: Well, let's use Monica as an example, a 14-year old girl in a vulnerable situation. She was passed on to traffickers by her parents when she was nine-years old. She's been pimped on the streets by other prostitutes. Her life controlled by a local trafficker. And when we decided to take her from the traffickers and help the charity get her to safety, there were a number of measures put in place.

First of all, there was a team there waiting and available to give her help, to give her counseling. We got in contact with the safehouse run by Yana Matai (ph). Yana guided us through the whole 12 hours that Monica was in our care and local charity worker's care because it was a 12 hour journey from Yash (ph) to the safehouse. And there were people there who knew what to do, and knew how she would react. Very confused, very frightened. And we took her straight to the safehouse.

So her safety, her emotions were the priority, not the film. And you will have noticed in that report, we don't actually film the moment she's told. So fair. That's Monica's moment in her life. We don't need to see that.

So we had to carefully consider Monica. My argument for filming a girl going through a situation like that is one story tells a million. And when you can tell a million stories, politicians listen up. And maybe even the men that use these girls in brothels across Europe - and by exploiting, if you want to use that word, a particular subject, in terms of television, you can save an awful lot of girls' lives.

ANDERSON: Emotionally, how do you feel in these pieces?

ROGERS: A relief (INAUDIBLE). I mean, you know, it's the first thing I've thought about when I've woken up. And it's the last thing I've thought about when I've gone to bed. And I'm looking forward to not having to do that.

I have to admit when you pay money for a human being who's 14-years old, there is some emotional attachment. You cross that line of impartial journalism. And you know, I will never forget Monica. And I will never forget the night that, you know, we took her away and took her to safety. And there's other girls I wish - we all wish we could do more for, but that's not our job.

Our job is to tell a story, to tell it well. And if there's change, and if there's people who get a better life from it, that's a glorious side effect. And that's the job for other people like politicians.

ANDERSON: Chris, really, we thank you very much indeed for joining us. Chris Rogers of ITV News.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, logging onto video sharing websites. China introduces new rules controlling what's posted on the Internet. We'll assess the impact of those changes after this short break. Don't go away.


TIME STAMP: 2053:00

ANDERSON: Welcome back. Now it is a booming industry. Video sharing websites are increasing in number around the world and they're becoming particularly popular in China while more than 210 million people have access to the Internet.

Well on Thursday, new rules were introduced in China that required video sharing websites to be licensed. And like other Chinese media companies, they all need to be state owned. Well, critics say the changes are designed to expand censorship controls ahead of the summer Olympics.

But they believe regulators will allow private operators to work around the restrictions.


CHEN DONG, INTERNET ANALYST (through translator): The practice of the new regulation will not be something like the authorities imposing uniformity in all cases as many expected. They want to make the whole business operate under a more regulated circumstance and in a more intensified manner.


ANDERSON: Well, Internet users fear they could ultimately have their access to the Web restricted.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If it becomes true, then I won't be able to see those things on the Internet that I'm seeing often. I feel bad about it.


ANDERSON: Well, how regulators will enforce the rules remains unclear. But press freedom advocates argue the changes are designed to censor a blossoming online industry in the country.

Well, let's get more on this now. First, we turn to Vincent Brossel. He's head of the Asia desk with Reporters Without Borders. And he's in Paris.

And sir, we thank you for joining us. Walk us through what you believe the motivation is here. What are the authorities scared of in China?

VINCENT BROSSEL, REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: I mean, first of all, I think that the biggest motivation is to restrict the content and especially to get a chance to remove all the dissidents' videos that are now quite popular on the Internet.

I mean, of course, especially before the Olympics, it is becoming a big challenge for the Chinese government. They need to remove all those things related to the (INAUDIBLE), to the Chinese dissents, especially now to Ho Ja (ph), the leading dissent who was arrested recently. And also, I think there is an economical reason, because all the video sharing websites are private. And they are doing a lot of money. And the state company, they want a part of it.

ANDERSON: Well, I'll ask you this. Given the state of play just a decade ago in China, haven't we actually seen a lot of progress? And aren't we perhaps too quick to deride a system that is still effectively learning the West's rules?

BROSSEL: Yes, it's true. I mean, the private companies, especially on the Internet, have been very important to promote the Internet in the country. This point, the government also had a - I would say some positive steps, especially in terms of infrastructures.

But the Chinese government wants the benefits of the Internet for the economy, but they don't want the let's say the bad things in terms of political control. And I would say that it's nothing new in China. I mean, state owned company or company that have link with the government, they have - they are much more powerful than the normal private companies.

And for example, in the media markets, there is no access for the foreign news agencies to the Chinese media. It's a huge restriction. And now this case is taken to the WTO. So I hope that the Western government will also raise this issue of the video sharing websites in the WTO.

ANDERSON: How much pressure, Vincent, is there on the authorities to loosen these regulations ahead of the Olympics in July?

BROSSEL: I think it's very clear that this new law is basically implemented to prevent thing that the government want to avoid during the Olympic Games. They don't want any problems, especially they want to get a huge success. And they fear that if something happened during the games, for example, demonstration, protests, foreign outlets raising the case of the human rights, it will go on the Internet and especially it will be used on the video sharing websites.

So they want to avoid any problems. And it's clearly designed to prevent free expression because Olympic Games.

ANDERSON: Vincent Brossel in Paris, as ever, we thank you very much indeed for joining us.

Well, a reminder that INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS is now available online, of course. Log on to cnn.com/correspondents to see all or part of the program again and find out about the show and take part in our quick vote there. You'll find all at cnn.com/correspondents.

And that is it for this edition of the program. Do tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Becky Anderson on CNN. Thank you for joining us.



2008 Feb 1