It is reported that on February 19, some US journalists from CNN attempted to secretly film a Chinese military facility in Shanghai and were chased and stopped by PLA soldiers on duty.
The US has hyped up Chinese hackers recently. These US journalists did so obviously out of curiosity about so-called Chinese hackers, but if they had not been caught in the act, no one knows how the picture would appear in news reports.
Hackers haven't been found while the illicit photographer was caught. The incident leaves us two thought-provoking questions about the boundaries of news coverage and national security.
Though nowadays the media contributes more than the government in satisfying people's right to know, it doesn't mean any information the government hasn't revealed can be reported.
In fact, the right to know also has its restrictions. The media can neither involve people's privacy nor pry into national security.
It's common for journalists to have a curious instinct, yet they should first consider news value and media ethics when deciding what to report.
They should not overstep the "warning line," over which reporting is prohibited by law. Restricted zones are like a hot stove. Once the journalists overstep this warning line, they will not only be blamed for discarding journalism ethics, but also burned in a brush with the law.
The US journalists' behavior in Shanghai apparently violated this rule of news coverage, and exposed the lack of ethics of the news organization behind.
Military administrative zones often have the most state secrets to protect. The US journalists, who chose to secretly film around a military administrative zone, apparently knew that this behavior was prohibited by Chinese law.
Such behaviors would also be punished in US. In 2007, Phoenix TV journalist LÜqiu Luwei blogged about her experience in the US, "Some journalists didn't do as they were told by US police. Consequently, they were picked up and driven away by police."
She also mentioned that security guards of a US hotel that accommodated national leaders took actions against journalists.
Journalism is a just cause, which requires journalists to get information through proper means. As popular as undercover investigations are, their harm has been realized by educational circles and judicial departments.
Only when news coverage voluntarily accepts public supervision, can it help improve the reputation of journalism. Journalists must abide by professional ethics, laws and regulations. Otherwise, they can only bring shame on the profession.
The author is director of the Journalism Department at the Southwest University of Science and Technology. firstname.lastname@example.org