Reporter urges fight for press freedom


HONG KONG, AFP

The media in China must fight the communist regime for a “liberation of the pens” to reinforce human rights in the world’s most populous country, a top Chinese journalist said Saturday.

Speaking at a human rights press awards ceremony at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong, award-winning mainland journalist Gao Yu highlighted the difficult conditions reporters in China still face.

“In today’s China, journalists like me still have to risk their security, their future career and their personal well-being, if they choose to stand by democracy, human rights and freedom of the press,” she said.

Gao was given a six-year prison sentence in 1993 for allegedly revealing state secrets in a Hong Kong magazine.

Her case became a subject of international media attention and she was eventually released in 1998 on medical parole.

“I honestly think the liberation of the pens remains the mission for journalists in China, and this constitutes an essential part of the fight for human rights in China,” said Gao.

The Chinese press has become more free-wheeling of late, with tabloid newspapers and magazines in the cities adopting a racier approach to showbiz and sports in a bid to attract readers.

But political issues remain highly sensitive, and Gao said Hong Kong publications now had a key role to play in advocating democracy and liberty.

She quoted a former liberal Communist Party leader, Lu Dingyi, as saying: “There are two kinds of newspapers. One tells the truth and belongs to the people; these newspapers will enlighten their readers.

“The other tells rumors and belongs to the dictators; these newspapers confuse peoples’ minds and make them naive.”

Likewise, according to Gao, Lu wrote there were two distinct categories of journalists.

“One serves the people, tells them what they have to know and translates their thoughts in to public opinions. The other serves the dictators, and their only duty is fabricating rumors.”

Gao said: “There is no midway between liberty and dictatorship, between truth and lies. We all have to take a stand.”

Gao is the recipient of several prestigious prizes including the Golden Pen award of the World Association of Newspapers and the Courage in Journalism award presented by the Women’s Media Foundation.