Beitou, Taipei City — China imposing restriction on media freedom is nothing new. This time around, the fabricated story of cardboard-filled meat buns by a Beijing television reporter lends weight to the government’s excuse of media control.
With the Chinese Communist Party Congress approaching, Beijing has recently set out to tighten its grip on media. The Central Committee’s Propaganda Department, the organization to monitor content of the publications in consistency with the Communist Party’s political dogma, kicks off a wide-ranging clampdown on “false news” and “illegal publications.” Such “well-intended” campaign to sustain the “harmonious society” showcases the ruling Communists’ lack of confidence.
To build a progressive and cooperative national image, Beijing has long been scheming to blind the people to reality. The ban on reporting the real situation of the 172 trapped miners at the Huayuan mine in Shandong province and probing the details of the deadly collapse of the Fenghuang bridge in Zhejiang province, as was lately issued by the Propaganda Department, exemplifies the government’s reluctance to face the music. However, the disguise fails to whitewash the blot on the Communist leadership, only to leave the unnerved public to speculate rumors and to cast doubts on the regime’s credibility.
On the other side, the Chinese officials run short of confidence in its subjects. They underestimate the citizens’ media literacy to detect bias, distinguish facts from opinions, and reconstruct media message. Under the pretext of protectionism, the people’s right of knowledge is trampled on and, in the meantime, the opportunity to develop critical thinking is deprived.
China’s media control reckons a bitter reminder, to the world and to itself, of a totalitarian regime seeking to suppress speech that they disapprove of, dislike or simply dread to let their subjects know.