The concept of restraining the abuse of public power by law deserves applause, says a signed article in Modern Express. An excerpt follows:
Two clauses in the previous draft of the emergency response law were removed. One is article 57 that rules the media are not supposed to release information about the handling of emergencies or developments of the situation on their own "in violation of related rules". The other is article 45 about authorizing government offices to "regulate" media reports.
Why were the strict restrictions on media reports deleted? Related authorities explained that the removed clauses in the previous draft were not explicit and might be used by some regional governments as an excuse to restrain regular media reporting. They said the clauses were no good for media supervision of regional governments' work, and supervision of those who try to cover the truth of emergency cases.
The removal of these two clauses that might lead to restraints on the press shows respect for the media's rights of reporting. Open and transparent, timely and accurate media reports are of vital significance in responding to emergencies.
Attempts to hide the truth by regional governments are the law's major target. Of course irresponsible media reports should be restrained but media supervision should be utilized.
Judging from past experiences, regional governments are the biggest obstacles to open information. Also, in the "only responsible to one's superior" system, local governments have both the interest and power to cover up "image-damaging" facts.
In a society ruled by law, preventing the abuse of public power is the most important task of legislation.
(China Daily June 28, 2007)