Is it right to dig up Tang Lanlan’s case?

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/6 20:38:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

In 2008, 14-year-old Tang Lanlan (alias) wrote to a police station in Wudalianchi, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, that she had been raped and sexually abused for seven years by more than 10 people, including her close relatives. After an investigation, 11 persons were sentenced to prison for rape and forced prostitution. Ten years on, a recent article by Chinese media site The Paper titled "Where is Tang Lanlan" raised questions about whether Tang told the truth or made false accusations back then, putting the decade-old case back in the limelight. It triggered a heated online debate on whether it is right for media to dig up the case again to cause more harm to the girl. The Global Times has collected three views on the issue.

Objective, fact-based media crucial to justice

Objective fact-based reports are important for the development of China's legal system and have helped find out the truth with fairness and justice in a series of cases.

Every civilized society with developed rule of law cannot operate smoothly without media's quest for the truth and its questioning of injustice.

But seeking justice needs to be based on facts and comply with the law. While in some cases media has helped implement justice, others have become more complex because of the involvement of the press and public opinion.

In the Tang Lanlan case, the public has expressed the need for more objectivity and fairness of media reports and commentaries.

The interest Tang's case generated shows that we need to study the complicated relationship between media and judicial institutions. Both seek the truth to achieve social fairness and justice. But in times when social media is popular and everyone can voice what they think, the risk of opinion outdoing facts is higher. So the media needs to be more objective, responsible and alert for extreme opinions and emotions.

Media should face up to and point out wrongdoing in the society, but the critical coverage ought to be objective and fact-based. Media is obliged to supervise and monitor the society, and cannot back off just because some people try to use it to reverse the verdict. How to perform professionally and responsibly to help the dispensation of justice is a test for journalists.

In Tang's case, both the report that triggered a public outcry and debate are important parts of our efforts to find the truth. Exposing facts and reaching consensus always need time and sometimes there are twists and turns. This is perhaps the cost of realizing justice.

In this sense, it is good to make comments and raise questions since this will help guarantee the public's right to know, to participate, to make their voices heard and to supervise, protecting all parties' rights. With these efforts, we will be closer to our goal of fairness and justice in society.

People's Daily

Reports, journalists should not be blamed

As Tang's case set off a heated debate, local authorities clarified that media reports were a hype-up of the case and two of the suspects were recently found to have used prostitution, demanding netizens not to believe in the hype-up.

Meanwhile, social media users blamed false reporting and accused journalists of confusing the public. They even thought the reports had unfair stance and used improper means. Some people even tried to dig out the personal information of journalists and commentators related to the reports.

Why was media's questioning of the case considered a hype-up by local authorities? Why are local governments often worried that netizens can be deceived so easily?

The media outlet which first reported on Tang's case must not have intended to cause such chaos. The priority now is not to refute public doubts, but to come back to the case itself. Only by providing full and abundant evidence can the doubts be addressed.

Government agencies need to respond to doubts from the media and public based on facts, rather than blaming the media or people involved in the case.

Angry social media users need to calm down to read carefully what media reports said and consider how to respond to such questions. These problems are relevant to every citizen's rights. If everyone keeps silent, everybody's rights will be violated.

Strictly, media reports are not flawless. There are many emotional expressions which may mislead the public. The Paper reported that Tang put all her family into prison and we need to find her. The sentence can be easily understood but is not given to easy interpretation in law. Actually, The Paper just hoped the relevant party will respond to the appeal and wanted to find out the truth.

In fact, these flaws do not diminish the seriousness and veracity of the report. The media and journalists made every effort to bring out the truth and unmask the culprits. They want flawless justice without hurting the victim.

Protection of victim's privacy is bottom line

The Paper report is questionable as it has revealed a lot of personal information about the victim. It not only exposed the victim's former name, former household registration city and even the address after moving to another house. Although the journalist blurred some information, readers could connect the dots. With the report published, some people started to look for Tang.

In fact, Tang did not disappear as mentioned in the report but moved to gain police protection. When the incident took place, Tang was only 14 years old and the perpetrators included almost all her close relatives. The incident was really shocking and changing the home address is to prevent further harm to the victim. If the parties wanted the verdict changed, they should have appealed according to procedure. But the report is likely to undo efforts by the police to prevent further harm to the victim.

There are justice department guidelines about reporting on sexual assault on juveniles. In 2013, the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice jointly issued the "Opinions on Legally Punishing the Crime of Sexual Assault Against Minors." In the press conference, the spokesman of the Supreme People's Court emphasized that when the media reports on sexual assault of juveniles, they need to protect the privacy of the victims, juvenile suspects and juvenile defendants.

There is no penalty fixed for the media but they should not cross the red line. Protecting victims' privacy is the basic principle of journalism and journalistic ethics. Victims of sexual assault endure stigma and hurt. Hence, the media need to be cautious while reporting on sexual assault.

The media not only need to guarantee the public's right to know but also protect the privacy of the victims. It should show respect for basic human rights.

China Women's News

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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