Vaccine scandal places media under spotlight

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-28 20:13:01

How did the 2 million improperly stored vaccines circulate into the market, and where have all of them gone? It has been reported that those spoiled vaccines have been distributed in China for over 5 years. Why didn't anyone notice it earlier? Why, the minute someone unveiled the scandal, were they blamed, stirring up a fierce "rumor vs truth" debate?

The recent article of your newspaper "Media unable to build govt credibility over vaccine scandal" has answered those questions. It has pointed out that the government chose a convenient way of putting harsh restrictions on media instead of seeking efficient interactions with it, and explained that "as a result, when public scandal occurs, the media can hardly function to release the information and clarify the rumors."

It made me think that there might be a series of reasons that have led to the distribution of illegal vaccines, but that the media failed to play its role must be one of the crucial links to it.

How many investigative journalists are there in China so far, and how many misdeeds have been exposed by reporters in China the way like the Boston Globe's coverage and disclosure of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the movie Spotlight?

The film, based closely on the real story, showed that as the media failed to investigate and cover the pedophile priests in time, thousands more children were abused. Similarly, since nothing was said after the first unsafe vaccine stories emerged, the children and their families have paid the price, and are still paying it.

This is not to say that the fault is on the media alone. But at least it shows that investigative reporters should be encouraged to better shoulder their responsibilities.

In the meantime, we should remember reporting itself is a process of getting close to the truth. And the process is also called investigation. Every single piece of news should be written and released after investigation, and every competent reporter should be an investigative journalist. This might sound idealistic, but it is an effort worth to be paid for trust.

The reason why the latest vaccine scandal broke so widely is because of some reports that lacked accuracy. While silence will only assist the evil, the journalist who reported the event first failed to make it clear that the vaccines weren't fakes, but rather had been stored in conditions that rendered them unsafe.

The chief problem is that they might not work, thus leaving children vulnerable to conditions they should be immunized against, rather than potential directly harmful events.

Some media later tried to clarify the fact, but have only encountered a huge backlash from the public, with numerous parents arguing that whatever the problem is, it cannot be tolerated, given that every shot is closely connected to their children's health and safety.

It should be a lesson to all media, that remaining silent should never be an option in face of evil, but reporting without comprehensive investigation will only mislead the public or complicate issues.

Therefore, apart from calling for more investigative reporting and supervision from the media, an investigative spirit is more needed for every individual journalist.

Isa Zhang, a freelancer in Beijing

Posted in: Letters

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