tirsdag 28. januar 2020

Veteran Journalist Condemns Chinese Media Over Wuhan Coverage

In theory, during outbreaks of infectious diseases, mass media plays a crucial role in providing timely and accurate information to the public about the risks and prevention measures regarding the epidemics. But during the recent public health crisis in China, where a novel coronavirus has killed dozens of people and infected thousands, most news publications in China have actually helped to cover up the spread of the deadly virus under pressure from health authorities. This is the view of veteran Chinese journalist Chén Jìbīng 陈季冰 in an article (in Chinese), originally published but since deleted by Tencent’s Dajia on WeChat.

Titled “Fifty days of Wuhan’s outbreak, Chinese people across the country are paying the price for the death of media,” the article begins with a personal story of Chen finding that his neighbor in Shanghai had been diagnosed with the disease after fleeing from Wuhan before the lockdown.

Chen points out that January 20 marked a watershed in the mass media’s coverage of the crisis. Prior to that day, most reports came from local news publications in Wuhan and the vast majority of them were created with the purpose of calming public fears. The main theme, as Chen noted, was that the virus was “mildly dangerous” and the spread was “controllable.” Chen suspects that the underreporting of the crisis before January 20 was due to a series of political meetings in Wuhan during that time, as local newspapers possibly received orders from a higher authority to reduce its coverage about the outbreak. This theory is confirmed by other commentators.