Some local governments' relentless efforts to put a lid on so-called "negative coverage" in the media are essentially creating an open confrontation with public supervision, says an article in the Beijing News, an excerpt of which follows:
Some local officials have set up a special organ to control the media's "negative coverage" of their regions and departments in recent years.
To reduce the coverage alleged to compromise their achievements or image, they usually refuse interviews demanded by the media and interfere with the media's operations through any means available. Sometimes they even "buy" unconscientious local media and reporters to get pieces of news that highly praise their achievements into print.
By whatever means, their sole purpose is to cover the truth and eliminate any potentially unfavourable reporting.
Although this practice can cover their dark side temporarily, it will leave a bigger hidden danger that will compromise social fairness. It may poison social morals.
The central government has stressed the importance of the media's role as the tool of public supervision.
In this year's government work report, Premier Wen Jiabao also demanded that supervision by citizens, society, and the media over government be further strengthened.
The only criterion to judge whether a coverage is positive or negative is whether or not it serves the fundamental interests of the people, former director of the State Council Information Office Zhao Qizheng said.
Just like its reporting of positive social phenomena, it is also the duty of the media to cover some negative aspects of society.
Local governments' refusal to expose to the media their "gloomy side" does not mean it does not exist. What they should do instead is to learn lessons and try to correct malpractice.
(China Daily September 21, 2005)