Chinese experts on journalism and communications have expressed disappointment with some western media's distorted reports on the riot in Lhasa and urged them to replace those reports with truthful accounts.
"They should make corrections and report more objectively," said Guan Shijie, professor at the School of Journalism and Communications of Peking University.
In recent days, some western media organizations were criticized by Chinese netizens for distorted coverage of the violence in the capital city of China's Tibet Autonomous Region.
Guan said that he had noticed the website of Germany's largest newspaper, BILD, published a picture of Nepalese police dispelling Tibetan protestors with sticks; however, the newspaper said it happened in Tibet.
He said the headline beside the picture – "Should we boycott 2008 Olympics in China together?" – exposed the newspaper's purpose.
"Some western media felt no hesitation in spreading rumors to undermine the coming Olympics," he said. He added that, in the long run, the western media want to take advantage of the riot to tarnish China's image to serve their own political interests.
He said that distorted reports violated global media ethics and severely damaged China's reputation in the international community, since it was difficult to erase readers' first impressions.
He urged such media organizations to make corrections and take responsibility for what they presented to readers. "Freedom of the press should not hamper the freedom and dignity of other people," he said.
Zhang Kai, professor of the Communication University of China (CUC), concurred with Guan. She said she had been paying attention to reports both in China and abroad since the riot on March 14 and seen some distorted and even fabricated reports.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) released a picture on its website showing Chinese Armed Police officers helping medical staff move a wounded person into an ambulance.
The website's caption said that "there is a heavy military presence in Lhasa", neglecting the obvious First Aid and Red Cross signs on the ambulance.
"I was angered, as a media researcher, by their reporting," Zhang said.
German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost posted a picture on its website that depicted police in Lhasa rescuing a young man assaulted by rioters. But the caption said "insurrectionist taken away by police".
US-based Fox TV said in a picture caption on its website that Chinese military personnel dragged some protestors onto a vehicle, when actually the uniformed people were Indian police.
N-TV, headquartered in Germany, used TV footage showing police with captured protestors in a report on the Tibet riots. The footage had been shot in Nepal and the police were Nepalese.
Zhang said that in these cases, newspapers and TV stations obviously chose materials according to their pre-conceived ideas. When they failed to find "proper" materials, they used something else instead.
"They violated the fundamental journalistic principle of 'truth'," she said.
Working at a Tianjin TV station, He Hua said she understood the great visual impact that pictures and TV footage had on readers and audiences.
She said a New York Times story that mentioned the riot in Tibet used a picture of Nepalese police and protesters. This would definitely mislead the public, not to mention reports directly confusing Nepalese and Indian police with Chinese.
"I was ashamed for my western counterparts," she said.
Yang Jing, graduate student in the international communication school of CUC, said she was disappointed by the western media, which she used to appreciate and respect for their objectivity and fairness.
"When some major events happened, I used to check how they reported them and listen to their opinions. However, their good image collapsed in my mind due to this incident," she said.
According to official statistics, at least 18 civilians and one police officer have been confirmed killed in the Lhasa unrest, which also saw 624 injuries. Damage is estimated at more than 244 million yuan (about 34 million US dollars).
(Xinhua News Agency March 24, 2008)