Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Western Freedom of the Press, Seen From China

This is a little off the beaten path. A recent conversation with a new friend included concern about the possibility of censorship/media spin everyday in the US. It seems to both of us that it is not only possible, but it is in fact practiced. I have observed censorship in China. There is the example of Andy Xie, an economist who wrote for Caijing until he and the editor-in-chief quit over censorship issues. This was reported in another China news outlet. I have conversations at my office with people visiting from China who are obvious in the difficulty of talking candidly with me about conditions in China, or the need for caution when corresponding by eMail to people in China.

Here in the US, some of the information we see each day is from mainstream media sources and some government agencies. It seems appropriate to examine the information/media sources and their role in influencing the information we get to read or hear. Because of the power in media, and our susceptibility to the power, more awareness of how it is used seems important to protecting what freedom we have left. My website reading today included a stop at the China Daily, english version. While there I stumbled into a fascinating opinion piece written by the director of the Center for Communication Studies, Hainan University. His article is titled "Is Western press a pawn or truly free?". It's brief and very interesting to my western eyes.

Here is a brief example of his message. "The key point is they are sophisticated at dealing with the press. Instead of interfering with media outlets directly, the politicians control the press by only providing the information they want the public to know. Thanks to the efforts of political consultants and spin doctors, such measures have become so sophisticated that they can be employed perfectly."

"Shan Renping, a media commentator in China, described Western press freedom perfectly: The so-called freedom of the press is limited only to their shared value system, and serves the interests of mainstream Western society. Whenever other interest groups are involved, the mask of freedom will drop, revealing the face of a tyrant. His words deserve our attention."

Keeping an open mind to being manipulated, so that I can be aware of it, helps me deal with it. Anybody else have thoughts about the topic? Or, have I said too much already? Scanner