Press freedom index hides absurd logic

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-21 0:38:01

Journalism advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RWB) released its World Press Freedom Index Wednesday, ranking China fifth from bottom, and Vietnam just one place higher. The group, while criticizing Asian countries, including South Korea and Japan for deteriorating press freedom, has mainly pointed the finger at China.

Founded in 1985 by Robert Ménard, RWB claims it has offices in 15 countries, but is exposed to have only some 20 staff. In his book The Hidden Face of Reporters Without Borders, Maxime Vivas reveals that the organization received financing from the CIA. The US National Endowment for Democracy and governments of other countries are among its sponsors.

Ménard-advocated "press freedom" is part of Western political structure and an internal rule formed after hundreds of years of Western societal development. It is totally unfit for many developing countries. From RWB's list, we choose South Korea (70th) and Singapore (154th) as two examples to analyze Western-style press freedom. Close to South Korea is Hong Kong (69th). Countries ranking above them include many poor Latin American countries, turbulent ex-Yugoslavian states and underdeveloped African nations. Many introduced Western press freedom after the Cold War, and have to bear the sophistication, to which their economic and societal development find hard to adapt.

It is absurd that Afghanistan, Chad, Lebanon and Liberia are all ranked above Singapore and Malaysia (146th). Many globally recognized turbulent states, including Iraq, Rwanda and Somalia are ranked above China (176th) and Vietnam (175th).

The ranking is led by several northern European countries, such as Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. Generally, Western nations round out the top of the list. It gives an impression that the West is pushing developing countries into their ideological circle. How they are judged has nothing to do with the development level, in fact there are many examples that suggest the contrary. It prompts us to think.

The constructiveness of journalism is more important than press freedom to developing countries. This constructiveness includes press freedom and supervision of the media, however it must incorporate understanding of different local political and economic development. The purpose of journalism is not to advocate its absolute freedom, but to help advance societal progress in a suitable way.

This theory, seemingly going against press freedom, could easily be misunderstood, but it has been repeatedly proved in the price paid by developing countries.

Admittedly, there is still a lot of room for improvement in China in the expanding scope of news reporting and enhancing information transparency. But when we make progress, we need to get rid of ways of thinking and logic that the West imposes on us.

Posted in: Editorial

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