An article from Interfax tells of a Southern Metropolitan Daily opinion piece that was written in response to the Ministry of Health Mao Qun’an’s comments to the effect that the media was covering medical and health issues irresponsibly by creating reports that are unbalanced and unobjective. Well, the folks at Southern took issue to that, but of course, replying to accusations from an official is not for the squeamish, so they worded their reply quite cautiously:
In what could be seen as a pre-emptive move to escape government censure, the carefully-worded commentary was quick to concede ground in the debate, acknowledging certain aspects of Mao’s remarks. It stated that his words served as a reminder that problems in the health care sector needed to be reported with care. It also acknowledged the existence of unbalanced reporting on health issues in some parts of the media.
But the paper claimed that medical reform was a major concern and something which affected everyone and that a newspaper did not create news, it reported it and was a ‘platform to publicize information’, and had its own professional ethics to uphold.
The newspaper pointed the finger of blame squarely in the direction of health management and said the uncooperative attitude of many medical establishments towards the media did not help them report matters more clearly.
Shanghaiist found the Chinese original here (in Chinese, duh) and read through it, comparing it with the snippets of translation that the Interfax article offered. They were mostly correct, but we would like to add something: There is one paragraph where they talk not just about the state of health journalism in China, but the role of the media in general:
This paragraph basically states that patients are at an inherent disadvantage vis-a-vis the medical institutions and health adminstrations. Without publicly trusted mediators to adjudicate conflict, the patients do the only thing they can think of: go to the media, get their stories out there. The writer seems to concur with this vision of the media as means of evening out the odds between the weaker and the stronger.
We also liked this paragraph:
This paragraph states that “as far as the directive to stop villifying medical insitutions goes, they (the government) can perhaps make the media overlook these disputes or else short-shrift them in coverage. And this, even were it possible by administrative means (i.e. government fiat), would it not entail the devaluation of the media as an institution?” We are translating a bit liberally here, but hopefully we’ve preserved the gist. These guys at Southern, you got to hand it to them, they got balls. To those rare few in this country who have the courage to uphold the rights of journalists and the media to do their jobs, someone at Shanghaiist salutes you.