China’s media taking free speech seriously

A very good look at how free today’s media in China really are (or are not). China’s media are definitely getting bolder. Will the trend continue, or will another ax fall?

YOU might think that China’s media have been having a hard time in recent months: editors sacked, reporters jailed, new curbs announced on what they can report, new clampdowns on the internet. But is it as bad as it sounds? Even as the authorities attempt to tighten controls, the media keep fighting back.

The picture is much more varied than that suggested by Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based pressure group, in a report this year. It said a government faced with growing social unrest had imposed a news blackout. “The press has been forced into self-censorship, the internet purged and foreign media kept at a distance.�

In the last month, however, several media organisations, including some affiliated with the government, have been unusually outspoken in their criticisms of government censorship. Far from subdued, some newspapers and their websites have been airing a lively debate about how far these controls should go.

As with everything having to do with China, there are all sorts of contradictions and gray areas when it comes to the Chinese media; generalizations simply don’t work. In my own experience, back in 2002-3, I found a surprising level of media freedom in the niche publications, like medical and scientific journals, and I was surprised at how open even the mainstream media were on occasion. And then SARS hit like a lead pipe, and we all saw how quickly the government could stop the presses and control the information. Still, the momentum ever since that catastophe ended has been basically positive, despite the occasional hiccup, like the recent ban on reporting unofficial stories on natural disasters.

Via CDT.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

Most of worse nightmares was coming from the time Hu came to power.

July 27, 2006 @ 11:50 pm | Comment

Yeah. I guess Hu’s saying that he admired North Korea’s social policies was a bit of a hint of his true sentiments.

July 28, 2006 @ 12:04 am | Comment

wait are you saying we don’t love the Great Leader and Dear Leader’s brilliant visions of juche and songgun?

July 28, 2006 @ 12:48 am | Comment

Mmmm, not so much. But I’ll take the soju.

July 28, 2006 @ 1:41 am | Comment

You copied this from the Economist! ummm…not cool

September 20, 2006 @ 5:25 pm | Comment

Copied WHAT from the Economist?

September 20, 2006 @ 7:57 pm | Comment

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