China and Tibet

Let’s see: China is lambasting foreign reporters for “biased” coverage of the riots in Tibet — while preventing them from traveling to Tibet or neighboring provinces to report on the unrest. Hmmm. The only possible translation is that China wants journalists and the rest of the world to simply accept China’s version of what’s happening, without independent verification.

Does this avoidance of evidence-based reporting and intelligence-gathering make sense to anyone outside the Chinese government? Here’s a stab at the rationale behind China’s thinking: Chinese argue that their system is geared toward a harmonious society, and claim that their ethos differs entirely from individualistic capitalism and is not based on the “Western” scientific revolution, which relies on evidence-based decision making. Trust us, the Chinese government is saying, without giving the world a reason to trust. It’s one thing to want to be “harmonious;” it’s discordant to base an country’s government-owned media and its international image on double-speak, double-think and — let’s be frank here — duplicitous nonsense.

Does that criticism reveal bias? Of course: I’m biased in support of freedom of expression and press rights. As a journalist I — we all — have to be, because without that right, there’s no point practicing journalism, or talking about any other “rights.”

For context a New York Times story is here, which discusses China’s accusations of bias.

A Globe and Mail story discusses the public reaction within China to the riots based on China’s one-sided government-controlled media reports.

On March 24 human rights protesters disrupted the lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece, for the Beijing games this summer — but as this Associated Press story notes, Chinese were not allowed to view that part of the ceremony, and instead had a sanitized news report. Here is a March 25 08 press release from Reporters Without Borders, which had a major role in the protest in Greece.

Article 19 weighs in.

The World Association of Newspapers and World Editors Forum has protested.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is tracking the issue.  

An international conference in Paris in April will spotlight press freedom issues around the Chinese Olympics.