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Chinese orders to put “positive” spin on earthquake reports

April 24, 2013

IFJ condemns Chinese orders to put a “positive” spin on earthquake reports

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the insistence of Chinese authorities that the media report only “positive” news stories in the aftermath of last week’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake which has claimed 193 lives in Sichuan.

The earthquake struck on April in Lushan County in Ya’an City, Sichuan. Media outlets rushed to cover the disasters and while authorities did not prevent access to the affected zone, there were demands that the media confine themselves to only reporting “positive” news stories.

One Chinese Mainland journalist said: “Regarding the evacuation of victims, we were ordered not to make any comparisons (with earlier disasters) or comments about the evacuations conducted by the military.”

In May 2008 an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck Wenchuan, Sichuan killing more than 69,000 people.

The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: “We have come to expect Chinese authorities demand the media put a positive ‘spin’ on news stories at times of natural disasters. But the authorities must recognise that the media’s role is not to be a mouthpiece of government. The media must be allowed to report what has happened and at times that will be stories the government would see as ‘negative’ – but that is the nature of news reporting in times of crisis. There should be no attempt to ‘sugar-coat’ stories using spin but a requirement to report honestly and truthfully. The public’s need to know exactly what has taken place in a disaster is paramount.”

The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office added that it is disappointing the Central Government, including Hong Kong Government officials, continue to place distinctions on news is “positive’ and “negative”.

“It is clearly misunderstanding the principle of press freedom and the responsibilities of journalist to inform their communities of the truth,” the IFJ said.

The IFJ urges Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to take the lead in quashing any attempts to spin the news in order to manipulate public opinion and, instead, to allow the media to perform their duties freely.

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

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