Journalism fellowship keeps Yahoo money despite criticism
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A journalism fellowship at Stanford University will keep a $1 million grant from Yahoo Inc. despite criticism of the company’s decision to turn over information on journalists to Chinese authorities.
The Yahoo money given to the John S. Knight Fellowship is slated to bring one journalist to campus each year for the next decade from countries where the news media is restricted.
Some former Knight fellows have criticized the program for accepting funding from a company that human rights groups have accused of undermining the principles of a free press.
The Sunnyvale-based company supplied information to Chinese authorities that led to the arrests of two journalists and two other Chinese dissidents, according to Human Rights Watch.
Some described the donation as “tainted money,” Sussman said.
But several reporters from outside the United States believed the money from Yahoo could help further discussions of press freedom and corporate responsibility, he said.
One of the four, Chinese reporter Shi Tao, was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison after Chinese officials accused him of revealing the contents of a secret government memo about media restrictions. It later emerged that Yahoo turned over e-mail from Shi’s account to prosecutors.
Peter Sussman, a 1978 Knight fellow and former San Francisco Chronicle editor, said opinions varied among the many Knight alumni debating the grant via e-mail.
Some described the donation as “tainted money,” Sussman said. But several reporters from outside the United States believed the money from Yahoo could help further discussions of press freedom and corporate responsibility, he said.
Jim Bettinger, the director of the fellowship program, said the program would consider holding a forum to bring Yahoo and other media companies together with journalists to discuss operating in repressive countries.
“We’re not happy with the consequences of the decision to turn over the information,” Bettinger said. “But I believe the company’s not happy with it either. And I believe they’re trying to learn from what happened.”
Nicki Dugan, a Yahoo spokeswoman, said the company is now working to develop guidelines for doing business in countries where circumstances “may be in conflict with Western values.”
The fellowship grant was intended to reflect the company’s commitment to “the free flow of ideas and free expression,” she said.
Earlier this year, Yahoo, Google and several other tech leaders were called to Washington by congressional leaders who accused the companies of helping the Chinese government censor its citizens.
In testimony before the House global human rights subcommittee in February, Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan said the company “was legally obligated to comply with the requirements of Chinese law enforcement.”
Joel Simon, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said his group does not oppose Knight’s acceptance of money from Yahoo, but added that Yahoo’s donation does not change his opinion of the company’s actions in China.
“If they really want to demonstrate their commitment to freedom of the press, they need to ensure that their services are not used to hinder or repress the work of journalists,” he said.