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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

Tolerating rumors not a democratic quality

By Ma Wangyuan (People's Daily)

17:06, April 11, 2012

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

Recently, many comments on the subject of "rumors" have appeared. Most people firmly and clearly express that they oppose rumors of any kinds, but some people believe that some rumors are not completely rootless and some even could help "promote reforms" and "solve problems."

How should we treat rumors and what attitude should we take regarding rumors in the information age?

Many believe that the right to speak should include the right to speak wrongly, and tolerating rumors is actually protecting the right to speak. In addition, in a "freedom of speech" environment, all rumors will ultimately collapse without being attacked. Therefore, in order to protect the freedom of speech, it is better to implement a non-intervention policy towards rumors and let them emerge and die freely.

Opinions of such kind are half-right, because speaking wrongly and deliberately starting a rumor are different essentially. A simple reason is that, due to the unprecedented information transmission speed of the current times, many rumors have already caused some damages before they are proved wrong.

Therefore, most countries, including China, defined the crime of defamation and the crime of creating and deliberately spreading fake information in their laws. Even the Western countries, which regard themselves as countries with the freedom of speech, limit speeches causing "obvious and instant dangers."

In this sense, all the people, no matter what opinions they hold, should have a bottom sense of worth and a fundamental conception of right and wrong. Anybody at any time should not start a rumor on the excuse of the freedom of speech, should not spread a rumor in the name of pursuing the truth, and should not regard tolerating rumors as a democratic quality.

Governmental departments should resolutely treat rumors endangering the national security and public safety according to laws. Meanwhile, they should also study the public emotions behind a rumor, direct face the social elements causing the rumor, and use more transparent measures to reveal the truth before a rumor appears. They should also publish information actively and timely to meet the public requirements on information, and then improve their credibility and capacities of crushing rumors.

Individuals should know the line between legality and illegality and understand the essential difference between giving a comment and starting a rumor. Giving a comment is the right of the citizen, but starting a rumor is a deliberate destructive action.

There is a saying regarding rumor: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." In an era when the information transmission speed is faster than the speed of sound, letting rumors "emerge and die freely" or "collapse without being attacked" is an irresponsible attitude. Although rumors, as a social phenomenon, cannot be eliminated completely, we must pick up the weapon of the law to firmly fight against any rumors damaging rights and interests of the citizens and the national interests. It is also testing the maturity and rationality of the Chinese society and measuring the process of China's democratic politics.

Read the Chinese version at http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2012-04/10/nw.D110000renmrb_20120410_3-04.htm

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:叶欣)

Leave your comment4 comments

  1. Name

George at 2012-04-1359.161.166.*
We need independent organisations to justify the things they are true or false.which don"t have very much greater dependenccy on a single country or group of people(higher class people who have lot of money) in the society for their funds.Which is having great love on single community or race and hate other other communities or races.Who boldly told the truths after analysing the things by using their own analysis(not blindly fallow the things which are said by somebody else).
Allen Snyder at 2012-04-1292.15.15.*
Freedom of speech does not let anyone spread false information, or start rumours with ill intention, or defame someone to cause distress and damages. This clear line exists in the west.
Dale Milnes at 2012-04-1272.223.100.*
A rumor can be true or false. ?A rumor can be harmful or harmless. ?If false and harmless it can be ignored. ?If true and harmless it can be noted. ?If harmful it should be argued true or false. ?In the present instance the rumor ?is harmful.
Canada at 2012-04-1170.36.49.*
Honesty is vital for a healthy society and intelligent debate.
  

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