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Chinese netizens question "freedom of the press" following hacking scandal

English.news.cn   2011-07-22 21:49:10 FeedbackPrintRSS

BEIJING, July 22 (Xinhua) -- As the UK phone-hacking scandal continues to dominate media coverage worldwide, Chinese netizens have been casting doubt over the "freedom of the press" upheld by Western media organizations which, paradoxically, label themselves as the guardian of human rights.

"Western countries and media have been criticizing other countries in the name of freedom and human rights for so long, but this time, the phone-hacking scandal has dealt a heavy blow to their journalistic morality and superiority," said "Sawanglaoyu" at Weibo.com, China's largest twitter-like service website.

Rupert Murdoch's News International company closed its News of the World tabloid on July 10 after it was revealed that it hacked phones and paid police officers to obtain stories.

Summoned by British lawmakers to account for the scandal, Rupert Murdoch said he was humbled and ashamed but accepted no personal responsibility, according to previous reports.

"Sacrificing other people's rights to achieve their own goals will ultimately lead to the abuse of press freedom," "Sawanglaoyu" said.

Latest reports show that more newspapers became embroiled in Britain's phone-hacking scandal as the deputy prime minister said the crisis was a chance to clean up "murky" ties between politicians, police and the media.

"The so-called freedom, democracy and human rights invoked by Western media turn out to be deceptions. They think they are so powerful that they can defy laws and morality... Freedom without boundaries will just become the root for crime," said "ljf223."

Dong Tiance, a professor with the news and communication college of the Jinan University, said any kind of press freedom must be conducted within laws and ethics, and the phone-hacking scandal "went too far."

"The scandal exposed Western media using the 'right to know' as an excuse to violate people's private rights and abuse press freedom," Dong said.

Meanwhile, the scandal also prompted Chinese netizens to ponder the situations in their own country.

"Nowadays more disadvantaged people have begun to rely on the power of media to seek attention and even justice, but the media must think about the proper role they should play -- before standpoints overwhelm evidence and lure reporters to overstep the bottom line," said user "Wangxiuning" at Sina.com.cn.

Fan Yijin, former board chairman of the Nanfang Media Group, took the hacking scandal as a warning for China's media.

"As the media market is facing fiercer competition and more media groups are using new technology to expand their coverage, troubles are already emerging," said Fan, citing bribery for news resources and vague legal boundaries for cover-up reporting.

Many netizens have called upon the Chinese media to check for improper reporting practices and improve their employees' professional standards.

Dong said school education is only a small part of strengthening journalistic ethics while improving the mechanism for media operation is more important.

"The media industry should have effective restrictions, and punishment should be intensified for employees who violate laws," Dong said.

Editor: Zhang Xiang
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