Ezzat Shahrour, chief correspondent for al-Jazeera Arabic in Beijing, has an excellent post on his Chinese blog entitled “The Arab People Have 100,000 Questions for Chinese Media”.
In the article, Shahrour criticises the lopsided coverage of the Chinese media on the popular uprisings in the Arab world and says the lack of media credibility is already pushing Chinese netizens to alternative sources of information. Since it was published last Friday, the post has gained widespread attention, receiving 120,000 visits and 1,500 comments.
As David Bandurski of China Media Project (CMP) rightly notes, this post makes for a fascinating read because Al-Jazeera has long been held out as a model worthy of emulation as the government throws large sums of money to back the internationalisation of Chinese media outlets to boost the country’s “soft power”.
Read a short excerpt of CMP’s translation of the post after the jump…
“The Arab People Have 100,000 Questions for Chinese Media”
By Ezzat Shahrour (伊扎特)
Every time I see Chinese media reports on the Arab revolution I feel like my blood pressure is starting to rise. My adrenalin starts to race. My colleagues advise me to cut back on my reading of Chinese newspapers, saying, “Look, reading those all the time does your health no good.” But all joking aside, I can’t change my habits. Reading the Chinese newspapers has already become a daily must for me. And while I know it’s harmful, I can’t help myself. It’s the same as with cigarettes and coffee, another of my “bad habits.” Of course, when I talk about “harm” done, I’m not talking about the Chinese media themselves, but rather about their position on issues in the Arab world, and their intentional misreading of the popular will.
I just don’t see what the point is of media spending so much money to prepare their journalists to go to a dangerous place like Libya when all these reporters do is simultaneous interpretation in China of Ghaddafi’s own television station. Can’t this sort of news coverage be done just as well from Beijing? Isn’t it a complete waste of money? In their live reports, the Chinese reporters constantly emphasize that the majority of Libyans support Ghaddafi, so I suppose those opposition members who are gathering daily on the streets and in public squares must be from some fairy wonderland (or the Chinese media believe, like Ghaddafi, that these demonstrators are just “rats”)? The Chinese media tell us how Ghaddafi’s forces are gaining ground on the opposition forces, but they don’t tell us that there are tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries killing Libyan people at Ghaddafi’s behest. They tell us that the people of Libya all enjoy free medical insurance, but they don’t tell us how many hospitals Ghaddafi has built in Libya during his 42-year rule. They tell us how the people of Tripoli are all so grateful to Colonel Ghaddafi, but they don’t tell us that in this country that exports 1.6 million barrels of oil a day, six million people live on daily rations of porridge. The so-called Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is nothing more than a bad check.
The vast majority of Arabs accept the air campaign in Libya by coalition forces, even though this is a choice made of necessity only, with the hope that the intervention of the multinational coalition will extend a lifeline to the opposition forces that represent the true will of the Libyan people. But China’s media have misrepresented this. After the bombing began, these Chinese media, who originally paid no attention at all to the Arab revolution, sprang into action, assuming the air of stalwart fighters against hegemonism. They took UN Resolution 1973 out of context, applied a double-standard to the breaking of the ceasefire agreement, kept a tacit silence on the issue of [Ghaddafi’s] foreign mercenaries, intentionally misread the reasons for the air campaign. For those Chinese viewers who managed to gather the truth from various other sources, this only brought into sharp relief the line and position being promoted in China’s media — emphasize only the humanitarian disasters caused by Western air bombardments, and reporting sparingly if at all on the violent suppression and massacre of the people by Ghaddafi.
I noticed one Chinese journalist compared Ghaddafi to Saddam. My personal view is that there are no comparisons to be drawn at all between these two men. Saddam fell more than 10 years ago, his top officials and advisors have all been either killed or thrown into jail, and rarely do people ever mention criticism of him. As for Ghaddafi’s officials, it seems we haven’t seen a single one. Those who haven’t fled or switched sides have been detained by Ghaddafi. Anyone who could sneak away has. Ghaddafi’s most trusted foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, fled to Tunisia and surrendered to the Americans. Chinese media seem blind to the fact that their deliberate misinformation has already been found out by internet users. Not long after China Central Television quoted Libyan state television saying that Libya’s former interior minister, Abdul Fatah Younis, had not in fact defected (Libyan TV used old footage of Younis and Ghaddafi together to make a fake report), Younis appeared on Aljazeera personally to refute these rumors, saying that he had already joined the opposition camp. But the latter bit of news never made it onto mainstream television in China. The examples like this are too numerous to recount.