Friday, May 11, 2012

Getting even with a hardening China

US citizen Melissa Chan of Al-Jazeera 
Tit-for-tat is a language that Beijing understands. If such measures are not taken, Beijing will increasingly control the nature of the news we consume 

Ask just about any foreign correspondent who operates in China nowadays and you are bound to be told that the media environment there has recently gone from bad to worse. 

While unfettered journalism has never existed in modern China, the rules on what reporters could and could not write about became more permissive after Mao Zedong (毛澤東) passed away and more pragmatic leaders took over. The environment hardened again following the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, but since then reporters, foreign and local, have seen relative improvements. 

Despite those new freedoms, some areas remain perennially out of bounds, including coverage of large-scale civil unrest. Meanwhile, the government’s attitude toward reporting on human rights, corruption and environmental damage is haphazard, marked by occasional detentions, expulsions and, sometimes, surprising leniency. 

Until this week, the last foreign accredited journalist to have had his reporting rights denied by the Chinese authorities was Yukihisa Nakatsu of Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, who was expelled in October 1998 for allegedly having accessed “state secrets.” Now, with China facing a series of domestic controversies, the government appears to once again be tightening the screw on the media. On Monday, al-Jazeera was forced to close its bureau in Beijing after its chief correspondent, Melissa Chan, was denied a renewal of her press credentials and Chinese authorities refused to allow a replacement. 

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

3 comments:

Michael Fagan said...

Generally speaking, I agree: Chinese journalists for operations like Xinhua should be treated with the cold shoulder and derision, which, as the de facto agents of the PRC State that they in fact are, they deserve.

However...

"...which more often than not is the uglier side of democracy and free-market capitalism."

I understand the need for the commies in Beijing (and Washington) to point to this or that case of pollution, or low wages or fat cat bonuses or whatever else in order to denigrate "free-market" capitalism, but quite what the pressing need is for a reporter to repeat this travesty is, is unclear.

I will never tire of drilling this point: it is strictly not true to describe economic exchanges subject to (and mediated by) State compulsion as "free". Of all the bad habits of journalists both Left and Right, this is one of the worst, and only a cunning stunt like Harry Reid or maybe one of the ballboys in the league of mental short arses would be incapable of understanding why this is.

If the intention is to point to a contrast, or even simply to point to bad things that also happen outside of China in the democratic countries, then the correct term to use is democratically governed markets (and their comparative absence in China). It is not a difficult thing to get right - and getting it wrong is costly in that it helps to perpetuate one of the commies' most egregious "errors".

There's no need for it.

justrecently said...

I like the tit-for-tat idea, but I think there is an explanation to this story which touches not only on the nature of the Chinese party-state, but also on our interaction with it.

My spontaneious reaction to the story is here.

FOARP said...

I don't like it one bit. The fact that journalists are not arbitrarily expelled simply because of their line of reporting or the organisation they represent in democratic countries is something distinguishing democratic rule-of-law from dictatorship.

We are not talking about a spy case in which 'cultural attaches' find themselves PNG'ed in retaliation for espionage from the other side. Melissa Chan is not an agent of any government, was not engaged in criminal activity. Whilst Xinhua's reporters do work for the PRC government they do so at least notionally with the goal of reporting objectively.