“Food Won’t Be Safe Unless Journalists Are”

Following a Ministry of Health spokesman’s suggestion that journalists accused of scaremongering might be blacklisted, media commentator Bei Fangshuo argues that the media is “society’s immune system, not its illness.” From the Economic Observer:

As spokesman for the Ministry of Health, it’s reasonable that Mao [Qu’nan] should want journalists to stick to the facts, but that ought to be the domain of journalist ethics. The media is scared and concerned by the idea of a blacklist.

If every ministry makes its own blacklist, it will be impossible for the public to hold them to account and the central government ‘s proposal to promote public supervision of the government will be merely an empty promise. What frightens journalists is the presumption that they are to blame and that ministries are free to punish or reward them as they like. If, among existing newspapers, television channels, radio stations or websites, we want to choose some that enjoy spreading false information and misleading the public and label them as “unhealthy”, then we need to be very clear about the criteria. Otherwise, it’s not hard to imagine that the category will be used to block honest reporting of problems with food safety.

It’s well known that the main reason for problems with food safety is the aggressive cost cuts by businesses in search of greater profits, but the lack of public supervision is also a factor. The Ministry of Health’s planned blacklist shifts the responsibility for problems onto the media. It is as though the problems don’t originate within the food industry but because of the media.


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