A new digital age for Chinese media democracy

By Anazi Zote and Palesa Tshandu

The bad habits of western tabloid journalism have had a negative impact on Chinese media by making it easier to censor articles in quality newspapers, a Chinese media expert said on Monday.

Tabloid journalism in China—such as articles on the fashion sense of politician’s wives—gives the impression that there is an active media in the country, while serious issues are censored or simply ignored, said Prof Mao Sihui, director of the Bell Centre of English at the Macau Polytechnic Institute.

Tabloid news is less rigid in self-censorship and this allows China to maintain the public’s interest. In hard news censorship is more stringent and media does not include the interest of the public.

Sihui said one route for Chinese people to express their views was Internet. “If you want to see the power of the ordinary people go to the internet,” said Sihui.

[pullquote]“Economic growth does not mean press freedom”[/pullquote]

However, Sihui said that while access to the Internet has exploded in recent years, not everyone has access to it. He said the mentality amongst ordinary citizens in China was that of “slavery”.

Sihui said that only a minority of publications in China were liberal, with most tending to be conservative.

Sihui added that in contrast to the Internet, many Chinese are exposed to theatre and plays to communicate ideas. This is particularly true on the mainland.

“Freedom of expression is only true in theatre,” Sihui said.

Sihui said the “Chinese Dream” of media would include the decentralisation of information as a and stressed the importance of freedom and access to information.

China’s fast economic growth should not be used as an indication of the freedoms that are available in Chinese media.

“Economic growth does not mean press freedom”, said Sihui.