Responding to a recent speech by Hu Guohua, Guangdong’s deputy propaganda minister, in which the official talked about news control and the role of mass media, Dahe Daily, a commercial newspaper in Henan Province, said in a commentary last week that “smearing the media has become a tool” some officials use to stave off monitoring from the press.
Prior to Hu Guohua’s speech last week, in which he intimated propaganda officials would have to move away from a model of arbitrary censorship bowing to demands from local party officials, the media, particularly in Guangdong province, had been targeted on several occasions. In mid-January a top law-enforcement official in Guangzhou blamed media for a worsening sense of public safety. Just days before Hu’s speech, officials in Guangdong said media shared responsibility for public concerns about food safety.
The Dahe Daily commentary follows:
Someone in Guangdong’s Ministry of Public Security said [recently] that the serious public safety situation in Guangdong was related to negative reports by the media. But Hu Guohua, deputy to the People’s Congress and the vice minister of the propaganda department in Guangdong, said [in a speech several days ago] that the rise in the number of criminal cases is natural [given economic growth] and should be related [instead] to economic and social development, and not to journalists. From the point of view of management of the media, [Hu said, media should be treated well, used well and managed well. Managing media does not mean not allowing them to report anything (February 7, Southern Metropolis Daily).
These words by Hu Guohua are probably the most touching I have ever heard in my five years working as a journalist.
When I was choosing my undergraduate major, my father told me the only way to avoid being insulted and bullied was to become a government official, a journalist or a lawyer. Although this advice may not accurately sum up the real situation in contemporary Chinese society, it does accurately express the social situation as seen through the eyes of one peasant. Four years later I was a reporter. The first news story I did was to make records of ]the life of] people who survived by scavenging at two large dumps. They lived there with their children and even naturally formed social groups. I spent about two weeks going to the dumping grounds and spending the days with them. Sometimes I helped them out to break down the hostility they felt toward me.
In that period, I lived the life of a beggar … But I noticed the smearing of journalists was becoming more and more common. Public security takes a turn for the worse and reporters are blamed. Explosions cause deaths at coalmines, and while the issue of illegal mining is glossed over, journalists are defamed for their intention to extort money.
Out of self-defense, smearing the image of reporters has become a tool for some departments and professions that are sensitive [to investigation]. These actions [to smear the media] seek to limit the media’s monitoring function so [these people] can cover up their dereliction of duty. They think that by shutting the mouths of reporters they can shirk their responsibility. Clearly, faced with intelligent and open-minded officials like Li Yizhong, Zhu Xiaodan and Hu Guohua, their attempts can’t have quite the effect they desired.
[Posted by Brian Chan, February 15, 2007, 11:35am]