Opinion / Web Comments

Western media flawed with shoddy journalism

By Shan Chu (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2012-11-28 18:33

The BBC, Britain's public broadcaster, is facing a crisis. George Entwistle, its director-general stepped down after its "unacceptable journalistic standards" wrongly implicated former Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine in a child abuse scandal.

Entwistle offered his resignation "because of the unacceptable mistakes - the unacceptable shoddy journalism - which has caused us so much controversy", said Chris Patten chairman of the BBC Trust.

"Unfortunately, this shoddy journalism is perfectly acceptable (for the West) when it comes to reporting ‘news' on China", a Chinese netizen commented. The impression the majority of Chinese people have of Western media.

The number of stories and features on China in the mainstream Western media has been increasing dramatically. However, there is huge difference between the Western media's portrayal of country and what China is really like. If all their reporting is put together, it shows a country that looks nothing like China.

For a long time, Western media claimed themselves to be objective and impartial. So why is their coverage of China fraught with fallacies? They may give excuses, but the real reason lies in their arrogance and prejudice, which blind them to the truth.

Maltese travel journalist Victor Paul Borg has said there are many interrelated reasons for Western media's arrogance and prejudice, including their feelings of superiority and outdated imperialism. The world-renowned British journalist and scholar Martin Jacques shares similar views with Borg. According to Jacques, the West dominated the world over the past two centuries and believes that the source of human wisdom comes from the West. They cannot understand nor appreciate China's success.

Western media's reporting on the Chinese athletes at the London Olympic Games is a case in point. Their false reports deeply hurt the young and talented Chinese athletes such as the 16-year-old swimmer Ye Shiwen who was falsely accused of taking performance-enhancing substances. Reading between the lines, one can see what they are trying to say is: Without cheating, how is it possible for a Chinese swimmer to break world records? And this view is not just about China's sporting endeavors. The Western media create many skewed or fabricated stories about the so-called China threat and Chinese espionage.

The prejudice evinced by the Western media originates from the Cold War ideology that still prevails in the West, which labels all socialist countries as evil. This mentality has resulted in paranoia about China. "Dictatorship" and "darkness" are frequently used by Western media when talking about China, and they cite the words of a handful of overseas "dissidents" and separatists, or even use dishonest means, to prove predetermined allegations such as China's human rights situation is deteriorating, while deliberately turning a deaf ear to the voice of the Chinese people living in China.

A typical example is their coverage of cases of self-immolation in Tibetan-inhabited areas. The dismissal of four German journalists of Chinese origin by Deutsche Welle last year because of their pro-China comments shows that the West's much-vaunted freedom of expression doesn't exist.

The prejudice the Western media displays toward China indicates how uncomfortable the West is about China's rise. However, the wheel of history rolls irresistibly on, China has made and will continue to make remarkable achievements in its development.

If the Western media stick to their Cold War mentality, they will no doubt "lose their way", just like Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, which closed last year following a scandal about its journalists illegally tapping phones.

Giving up their arrogance and prejudice, and reporting about China in an objective way will help Western media gain the respect of the 1.3 billion Chinese people.

The author is a Beijing-based observer of international affairs.

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