Kunming Hails Breakthrough on Watchdog Journalism
The latest ooh-ah move comes from the city of Kunming, which earlier this month issued a draft ordinance against official abuse of duty saying that leaders who “interfered with or obstructed legal acts of press supervision would be held accountable and even face legal liability.”
Chinese editorials have called the law an “ice breaking action.” The shift, some say, from “official documentation in support [of watchdog journalism] to actual laws in support [of watchdog journalism]” marks a fundamental breakthrough.
Others, fortunately, have been duly skeptical.
[…] From the standpoint of journalists, these ordinances have offered no real encouragement. The environment for Chinese investigative reporters, the standard bearers of “supervision by public opinion,” has gotten steadily worse since 2004, and local governments bear much of the blame.
What enthusiastic commentators on the Kunming ordinance fail to acknowledge is the fact that press control in China is not ultimately a matter of law. It is a matter of party discretion.