It seems everyone, including UN health officials, are giving the Chinese government kudos in terms of embracing greater media transparency in avian flu reports. This new style of Chinese government was even lauded on US network news, where they noted that the Chinese, rather than trying to keep things hush-hush like with SARS, were now showing everything the government was doing with gusto, a reality TV show about the formerly corrupt and ineffective government that turned a corner and changed its ways.
Temper your optimism, there’s still a great deal of media control happening — not that this surprises you, savvy reader. Shanghaiist’s friendly college contact at a Shanghai university showed us a picture from their university BBS, a picture of a document from the authorities in Henan province, detailing what kind of reports and what kind of information could be released to the public. These aren’t just friendly reminders, these are guidelines for how to act with respect to the media. The following are some rough translations from this document that you might find interesting:
1. Control the total amount of news reports, make sure that there are not too many and not too few.
2. All major news stories about the Avian Flu must be approved by the authorities in the Provincial agriculture department, disease control and prevention department, and the relevant departments in the central government. No one can release information without going through this procedure, with the exception of certain very important events or information, for which internal consultation may suffice.
3. Propagate the message that the Avian Flu is preventable and controllable, but do not make statements about whether or not the disease is curable, and do not emphasize the fact that humans can also contract the disease.
4. All experts to be interviewed must be vetted by the provincial authorities, no publishing of individual expert opinions by itself.
5. No publishing of sensitive numbers or statistics, no photos involving armed personnel, no detailed reporting on the process of killing, destroying or burying birds.
6. No speculative guesses about the effects or long-term consequences of the disease. No reports or opinions from economists, sociologists or psychologists about the effect of the disease on society.
Last but not least, our favorite one:
7. No quoting or carrying news reports from overseas media and increase monitoring of small newspapers, magazines, and internet sites. No carrying of reports that might distort facts, spread rumors, and arouse mass panic. Those that do not follow these guidelines will be handled accordingly.
Also on Shanghaiist:
This day in bird flu history II
This day in bird flu history I
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Shanghai might start producing Tamiflu
Paranoia will destroy ya
Sole Search: Bird flu cleaning Shanghai’s shoes
OK, now we’re worried about the bird flu
Picture from Gothamist.