Riots in Lhasa
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Biased reporting runs counter to journalism codes
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08:11, March 26, 2008

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· Riots in Lhasa
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Recently, tens of thousands of Chinese citizens have been voicing their outrage at the biased and dishonest reporting by some Western media on the recent riots in Tibet. With great concern over the truth and its responsibility as an official news source with the largest reader base in China, People's Daily this week turned to media experts for their comments and analyses on the slanted reports by a handful of foreign media; and the ulterior motives behind them. The following are excerpts from an interview with Prof. Tang Xujun, vice-director of the Journalism and Media Studies Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), and dean of the Journalism Department at the Graduate School at CASS.

A barrage of criticism came from many Chinese netizens as news and pictures of the riots – involving beating, smashing, looting, arson and killing – that erupted in Lhasa on March 14, were being seriously manipulated by some Western media.

One netizen remarked in a blog that "the West is doing whatever they can, no matter how mean and vicious, to tarnish China's image."

Prof. Tang has also accumulated enough evidence to show how the Western media demonize China and the country's efforts to handle the crisis in Tibet. The websites of Germany's Bild newspaper, N-TV and RTL TV and the Washington Post all featured baton-wielding Nepalese police clashing with Tibetan protesters in Kathmandu, but with a caption claiming that the officers were Chinese police. This is an outright distortion of facts.

More notably, German's wildly successful Bild newspaper released on its website on March 17th the news banner "Whether the world will boycott 2008 Beijing Olympics," with a lead-in of "Hundreds killed in Tibetan riots." Facts and figures need to be "checked, and double checked" to for 100 percent accuracy, according to the journalism code of ethics, to which all reporters and editors are bound. Can Bild build its credibility on remaining blind to this principle and making irresponsible and deceitful remarks?

There are also pictures from media websites, including CNN and BBC, with false reports about the riots, which have drawn criticism from netizens. used a cropped photo of Chinese military trucks; while cutting off the half of the picture showing a crowd of rioters throwing rocks at the trucks. The BBC News website ran a picture with the caption saying "There is a heavy military presence in Lhasa;" while the photo clearly shows an ambulance bearing the Red Cross symbol.

"I used to think Western media were fair. But how could they turn a blind eye to the killing and arson caused by rioters?" This seems to be a question raised more than ever by many Chinese youngsters these days.
Tang pointed in the interview that some reports totally distorted the truth, citing the German weekly magazine, The Mirror. On The Mirror's website on March 14, a scene of Chinese troops taking cover from rocks was depicted as "The Chinese military waged a ruthless fight against the peaceful protest." The Mirror used a picture allegedly taken by a Canadian tourist. But the Canadian tourist wrote in a blog: "I want to make one thing clear because all of the major news outlets are ignoring a very important fact: the protests yesterday were NOT peaceful."

He wrote that all eyewitnesses agreed that "the protesters went from attacking Chinese police to attacking innocent people very, very quickly. They appeared to target Muslim and Han Chinese individuals and businesses first; but many Tibetans were also caught in the crossfire."
However, these words did not make it into the Western press. Maybe these media have no intention of baring the facts; but feel more inclined to make up eye-catching lies.

Some stories are not only a matter of false reporting, but also absurd fabrication. American Fox News website published a photo with the caption "Chinese troops parade handcuffed Tibetan prisoners in trucks;" while in fact the photo shows Indian police dragging a man away.

Journalism ethics and standards, widely known to journalists as the code of journalism ethics or canons of journalism, since compiled in 1922, have served as the guidelines governing the Western media. The code sets the basic formula for fair news reporting: be accountable, act independently, minimize harm, and seek the truth and report it.

Manipulating facts and distorting the truth via slanted reporting are forms of professional misconduct; and a serious breach in the code of journalism ethics, Prof. Tang said.

By People's Daily Online

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