Opportunity for more press freedom in China
By Dr. William Fang, Special to the China Post
January 17, 2009, 10:21 am TWN
A major local newspaper recently quoted the New York Times as reporting that to build a new international image for China, Beijing will spend a huge amount of money to promote several major Chinese media, including the People's Daily (PD) and the New China News Agency (NCNA), overseas. At the same time, the Chinese government will inaugurate a 24-hour news TV station akin to a Chinese version of the Cable News Network (CNN). The NCNA has been charged with the mission.
In making this move Beijing intends to rectify what it considers a Western-dominated news reporting slanted against China that has long troubled its media officials.
China's efforts have positive implications in several aspects. All Chinese around the world should wholeheartedly welcome this ambitious project as many share Beijing's dissatisfaction with Western-style reporting that at times interpret the news from an Anglo-centric point of view. Once Beijing succeeds in pursuing this venture, it will definitely make China more open to the international community with the result that greater domestic improvements will emerge to keep abreast of its image as a giant global power.
Secondly, there is a basic code of conduct for all professional journalists, regardless of nationalities. Accuracy and objectivity plus speed are the goals of modern reporting. If a Chinese version of CNN does come into being, it must be subject to the scrutiny of all viewers in the world in terms of the journalistic standards mentioned above. Of course, no news organization can completely realize the lofty ideals of journalism, and this is the reason why Beijing has decided to establish its own CNN. However, there is a generally acknowledged yardstick by which the performance of news reporting can be measured. In this situation the Communist regime should be forced to relax its control of mass media as a faithful propaganda organ of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as taught by Marxism and Leninism. If not, it will become an international target of criticism and even jeers and will gradually lose its audience with declining credibility, no matter how great the efforts it may make to publicize its news reports.
One of the salient characteristics of mass media as the fourth estate of a modern democracy is its ability to criticize. As a giant power gradually becoming a supreme world leader, it must learn to tolerate a fairly free press that is allowed to criticize the government whether in ideology, policy or personnel arrangement. This is not only a requirement of moral leadership in the world community but also an effective way to bring about continuous progress for China.
It is earnestly hoped that with the launching of the "Chinese CNN," mainland China will create a press that befits its international leadership status in reliability, prestige and popularity.