Worrying phenomenon

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, August 31, 2010
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The authorities have seldom failed to emphasize the need for outsider oversight when the topic drifts to reining in corruption. With a few exceptions, the job is consigned to the media.

Just a few days ago, Premier Wen Jiabao reiterated the legitimacy of the media's supervisory role in a high-profile speech. Things usually appear messy and murky in a transitional society like ours. Since the mass media operates in a very real world, our media colleagues are able to expose weaknesses in the face of real-world temptations.

There is no harm to any party if reporters and their work are taken with a grain of salt. Appropriate suspicion is actually the best way for self-protection. Given its potential damage to the individual or institutions, any kind of "expos journalism" deserves to come under strict scrutiny so that reporters are fair and factual.

We will never blind ourselves to the shameful reality that some people in our ranks are money-hungry creatures who will not hesitate to blackmail others and carry out other dirty transactions under the guise of "investigative reporting". That is why we are always in favor of stricter public scrutiny over our profession as well as self-discipline in the field.

However, we see no need to bother our police officers to take care of these concerns. There are plenty of emerging threats to our daily well-being waiting for their attention. We have general faith in the effectiveness of peer oversight within and among media institutions. Even if it fails, our court system is fully capable of handling libel lawsuits.

Yet, as we have witness once again in the latest instance, in which two reporters with the Qianlong website are allegedly involved in a case of libel, journalists again find themselves on the police's wanted list. As in several similar past cases, the police were not the only agency of the local authorities to have gotten involved. This time, in the Qianlong case, the local Party information department was the first to step in. It successfully prevented the website from publishing the allegedly "untrue" report. We do not know about the truthfulness of the investigative report or about any relationship between the company, which the reporters reportedly found was involved in a major fraud, and the local authorities.

But we are almost sure that their anxious interference does no good to any party involved. That a matter between a media organization and an enterprise which should and could have been resolved very well by the judiciary, if necessary, has evolved into one between the media and the local Party and government authorities, is in itself a worrying phenomenon. At the very least, it casts doubts, if not suspicions, about the unexplained relationships, or the way those relationships are in the eyes of local officials.

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