At the risk of boring everyone and getting this website swept under the Great Firewall, we’ll add a few short thoughts about Tibet.
As the CCP keeps a lockdown on Tibet, information is scarce and hard to come by, even more than usual. There’s a certain sore spot on China’s part against the Western media for its coverage of Tibet. A China Daily article shortly after the riots last year quotes a Chinese netizen railing against Western media outlets, saying “To tarnish China’s image, the West is doing whatever they can, no mater how mean and vicious.”
On the other hand, the Chinese people aren’t the only ones that can have hurt feelings. That netizen’s words reflect the utter contempt that the Chinese government has for the Western media’s “ignorance and prejudice.”
If the Chinese government’s goal is to offend the Western media, they’ve accomplished their mission. Even ostensibly professional organizations like Time are letting their feelings show. A recent article offers a glimpse into their wounded sense of journalistic self. The overall tone of the article is that of someone both angry and frustrated at the government, on a personal and professional level.
And who can blame them? A journalists’ job is to report things, and the CCP doesn’t make friends with them by not letting them do their job. This is not meant to excuse biased reporting (which certainly exists) but to point out that in some ways the media has no choice. They can either pack up their backs and go home or take their facts from the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala. From a personal standpoint it’s easy to see what they’ll choose.
This leads to another problem: the tendency to only include the official Chinese government statements on Tibet and the official Tibetan government-in-exile statements. There’s no room for middle ground because the middle ground is often difficult for reporters to get to.
Take the following NYT excerpt that quotes Xinhua and Dharamsala in the same breath:
“Last March.…At least 19 people were killed in ethnic rioting in Lhasa, most of them Han civilians, according to Xinhua….In the ensuing crackdown, 220 Tibetans were killed….according to the Tibetan government in exile, which is based in Dharamsala, India.”
The situation now almost forces Western media to get the facts wrong, by forcing them to choose between one set of propaganda and the other. It just so happens that Dharamsala has a better PR campaign and so their propaganda wins out.
The Time article ends with a certain stab at the Chinese government. Written during the pre-Olympic media blackout in Tibet, the article says that only when the government opens Tibet up for reporting will Western media “be able to say — without bias — just what has been going on behind closed doors.”
Next time the Chinese government whines about the unfairness of the Western press, resist the temptation to feel a bit sorry for them and remember who started this mess. No one should blame the Western media for being outraged at the CCP expecting them to play along with their propaganda games.