The hand foot and mouth disease outbreak seems like a local version of the 2003 SARS epidemic. And there’s one more similarity: the silence of the local media. A commentary translated by CDT from the Beijing News:
I am the father of a five-year-old, and I have been closely following the outbreak of hand foot and mouth disease in Fuyang, Anhui province since the first media reports. And I have logged onto the local Internet media sites but something abnormal caught my attention.
For all of April, Fuyang citizens were panicking under the wrap of the mysterious epidemic. But until April 28, I didn’t see a single mention of it on the local news section in Fuyang News Online. There were two articles on that day, respectively headlined “Our City Fully Employs Prevention and Treatment Campaign on the Disease” and “Song Weiping and Sun Yunfei Make Visits to Villages Inspecting Disease Prevention and Control Work.” Then the next day there were more news posts, but mostly propaganda sounding items like the two aforementioned.
The reality is, unlike the glorious epidemic fighting scenes being trumpeted by local media, Fuyang press failed to be a “whistle-blower” who alarms the society. Instead they covered up local government’s neglect, painted a false picture and showed indifference in the face of life-threatening tragedies.
But Fuyang is not alone. In real life, some local governments use the media like playing with a toy. Local media outlets are nothing but a mass printer for government documents and absolutely lose their role as a public opinion watchdog. This is indeed a tragedy for an underdeveloped city and its people. I hope that we should let small towns and cities become a blind spot in media supervision.