Gagged But Still Breathing Fire

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Ritika Passi explains why China is right in controlling internal media content

THE FIERY dragon may be busy blazing its trail across the world, eliciting eulogies from the western media, but, its own internal media is far from being a cause of admiration. It remains muzzled in its adherence to communism.

The Fourth Estate has long been touted as the vanguard of progress. Ironically, it can be debated that China’s gagged media has a hand in the country’s rapid rise to power.

Take the Internet, jokingly termed as the ‘Great Firewall of China’. China’s continued rampages against online pornography help in eliminating distracting elements in society. Further, the net becomes temporarily unavailable if ‘Tiananmen’ is typed in the Google searchbar. But who can afford another reason for internal crisis amidst the economic recession?

The fact is that China’s human rights record is not pretty and the world on and off clamours for its correction. If the media had been allowed to cover the Tibet crackdown, the persecution of the members of the Falun Gong Sect, and other protests, China would be labelled as a human rights violator by the UN, followed by sanctions and trials in the International Court of Justice.

They would never have hosted the Olympics, vital for China to showcase its economic prowess to the world, and build national pride.

In 2003, the communist regime indulged in ‘controlled dissemination’ of information regarding the SARS epidemic. Last summer, it covered up the melamine milk scandal. Recently, it took away the right to decide what foreign news to include from its official news agency, Xinhua. Evidently, China’s authoritarian political system is ensuring its survival at a time when individuals are increasingly straining against the socio-political limits. Thus, not many in the world know that the country experiences 300 daily demonstrations on an average. In such times, when it would be anathema for China’s Communist Party to appear out of control, it has become increasingly vital to keep the media on a leash.

And if today, China can boast of the biggest dam, the highest railway line, and the largest foreign reserves in the world, the muzzling of the media may have had a hand in its progress.

Ritika Passi studies at the Amity School of Communication, Amity University.
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