Ezzat Shahrour (伊扎特): “The Arab People Have 100,000 Questions for Chinese Media”

China Media Project has translated a Chinese blog post by Ezzat Shahrour, Al Jazeera’s chief correspondent in Beijing, on his views of Chinese media coverage of the “Arab Spring.” Shahrour, who has often been cited by official Chinese media for his views on Western vs. Chinese reporting, slams government efforts to create a global news brand when their reporting is nothing more than, “an intentional misreading of the popular will”:

Every time I see Chinese media reports on the Arab revolution I feel like my blood pressure is starting to rise. My adrenalin starts to race. My colleagues advise me to cut back on my reading of Chinese newspapers, saying, “Look, reading those all the time does your health no good.” But all joking aside, I can’t change my habits. Reading the Chinese newspapers has already become a daily must for me. And while I know it’s harmful, I can’t help myself. It’s the same as with cigarettes and coffee, another of my “bad habits.” Of course, when I talk about “harm” done, I’m not talking about the Chinese media themselves, but rather about their position on issues in the Arab world, and their intentional misreading of the popular will.

I just don’t see what the point is of media spending so much money to prepare their journalists to go to a dangerous place like Libya when all these reporters do is simultaneous interpretation in China of Ghaddafi’s own television station. Can’t this sort of news coverage be done just as well from Beijing? Isn’t it a complete waste of money? In their live reports, the Chinese reporters constantly emphasize that the majority of Libyans support Ghaddafi, so I suppose those opposition members who are gathering daily on the streets and in public squares must be from some fairy wonderland (or the Chinese media believe, like Ghaddafi, that these demonstrators are just “rats”)? The Chinese media tell us how Ghaddafi’s forces are gaining ground on the opposition forces, but they don’t tell us that there are tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries killing Libyan people at Ghaddafi’s behest. They tell us that the people of Libya all enjoy free medical insurance, but they don’t tell us how many hospitals Ghaddafi has built in Libya during his 42-year rule. They tell us how the people of Tripoli are all so grateful to Colonel Ghaddafi, but they don’t tell us that in this country that exports 1.6 million barrels of oil a day, six million people live on daily rations of porridge. The so-called Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is nothing more than a bad check.

[…] As I see it, media have responsibility and an obligation to report events comprehensively. Media should report it how they see it and how they know it, no matter whether the facts suit their own value judgements. Libyan state television can be used as one source of information. Through it you can understand the situation with Tripoli and Ghadaffi’s faction. But this is definitely not the only source of information. The rebels in Benghazi are people too, and they are an important side of this conflict. What I actually see, though, is that Chinese journalists are active every day in the hotels and on the streets of Tripoli, accompanying Ghadaffi loyalists to streets, hospitals and schools that have been prearranged for the convenience of their reporting. Their [media] logos frequently appear in videos in which Ghaddafi is shouting out slogans, but it’s hard to find them at important press conferences given by the opposition party.

Information is the glue that links media and viewers together. For this reason, the reliability of information becomes the standard for judging a media’s credibility. Media are not about proselytizing, they are an industry, an industry whose responsibility is to transmit information. And yet, during each successive sudden-breaking story, the effect Chinese media have as a fourth estate falls far behind that of the internet and personal media.