Since last July, we've seen serious accidents taking place one after another in Guangxi, Shaanxi, Shanghai and Jiangsu. News about the accidents spread fast by way of television, newspaper and the website. Especially the case of the Nandan mine flooding, it was only due to the great efforts by journalists that the "Iron Curtain" of the fact was torn apart. Afterwards, the accident aroused high attention of the Party and the State Council and the investigation on the accident was thus brought onto a right track.
However, some people hold different viewpoints on the advantages and disadvantages of the exposure by media. Some say that frequent exposures on accidents would cause instability of the local community and weaken the prestige of the Party and government. Therefore, they usually put a spoke in the wheel, impeding the media to do on-the-spot reporting.
What if the media is vacant of the accidents? This is what the troublemakers and criminals wish for, fancying that the media would keep silent from the beginning to the end. Without supervision and probe, they can blur the distinction of right and wrong, shirk their responsibility and shift the blame onto others. Accidents caused by unqualified equipment, unreasonable systems, illegal digging and mining can be said by distortion to be caused by natural disasters from force majeure. They can even shift the blame onto the victims. Without the supervision by the media and the public opinion, they might try every means possible to "lay flat" some officials even when the higher authorities are to come for handling the accident.
Keeping the media out of sight may be the fancy of some individual officials. They may be the chief executives of the regions where the accidents took place, or the officials in charge of the industries with the accidents. If the cat is let out of the bag, their achievements will be discolored and their officialdom threatened. Of course, they expect that the less person know the inside story the better. Higher authorities are better to be shunned off so that they can reduce the major issues to minor ones and then to nothing. Of course, when the leakage by the media is found inevitable, insidious persons will be sorted out to accept interviews by some media so as to send out untruthful voices to the public in line with what they wished for. This is also a kind of "absence", the same as did the silence of the media and this kind of "absence" is also hailed by troublemakers and those ill-disposed officials.
With the vacancy of the media, some persons may distort the guiding principles and policies from the higher authorities for handling the cases. Victims may be silently buried in wild mountains. Their family members may only get a meager sum of compensation. The cause and responsibility may not be probed and investigated. What's more horrible is that the hidden troubles remain untouched. Troublemakers who are asleep at the switch and hold in scorn of the laws may instigate troubles time and again. Incompetent officials may even have chances to get promoted to higher posts with greater power.
On the contrary, it is just because of the presence of the media that the truth was brought to light. Under the supervision of the media, the lessons are learnt with system perfected, and the liability prosecuted. The hidden troubles of the accidents are consequently reduced and the prestige of the Party and government was accordingly enhanced. Therefore the masses of the people have more faith and confidence in the Party and government.
Of course, when the media takes its courage in both hands more and more accidents are revealed to the public. Maybe someone would think, "the public security tends inferior." However, instead of these vulgar opinions more rational concepts are accepted. One can't deny that the accident itself has proved that the order of the units and regions was in a state of chaos. However, to jump to a conclusion just on this basis that the public security of the whole society is in disorder is quite biased. The fact is just the opposite. People living faraway can come to know the accident. This is, to a great extent, just due to the setting up of a system that let the media get involved honestly and report the fact to the public. This system offers the society a more mature mechanism for self-recondition and proves that the citizens' "right of being informed" has been taken into account. It is absolutely a progress of the society.
Nowadays, we feel gratified for the Chinese media that can face up to the accident squarely. As a real representative of the people's fundamental interests, the Chinese Communist Party and government facing disasters and accidents, put the security and benefits of the masses in the first place and draw lessons from them in order to stop and reduce to the utmost their reoccurrence. As the mouthpiece of the Party and the people, the media has the duty, the responsibility and the rights to report the fact of the accidents to the people so as to help them get a positive view out of the misfortune they are unwilling to face with.
(People's Daily 08/27/2001)