Tuesday, May 17, 2011



The May 16,2011, issue of the "Global Times" of China, which is controlled by the Communist Party of China, has carried an utterly delightful article on the state of journalism in China. Many of the telling observations in the article apply with equal validity to the state of journalism in India. I am annexing below the text of the article. (18-5-11)


Journalism trapped in web of special interests

Source: Global Times
May 16 2011]

By Li Xiguang

Like me, many people in China decided to become journalists because they had neither the brains for math and logic nor the talent to be doctors and engineers.

The moment for me to decide becoming a journalist came in the summer of 1982 when I had just graduated from university and was assigned to work with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

One day, Professor Qian Sanqiang, the father of the Chinese atomic bomb, asked me to go to the Indian embassy, acting as an interpreter at the dinner. During the dinner, the Indian ambassador stood up and gave a speech. He said, "Standing in front of Qian Sanqiang, I feel so humble. He knows everything about nothing but I know nothing about everything."

I was totally confused and did not know how to translate the sentence into Chinese.

Later, a particle physicist explained to me that "nothing" here referred to dark matter, a substance inferred to exist from gravitational effects on background radiation. Dark matter constitutes 80 percent of the matter in the universe, while ordinary matter makes up only 20 percent.

At that moment, it was not just the Indian ambassador who felt humble in front of science, but me, a formerly self-conceited young man.

My fiasco in translating the word "nothing" was a decisive moment for me to leave the scientific community and enter the unscientific world of journalism.

Journalism in China is certainly unscientific. Perhaps it's even pseudo-scientific. Reporters are like the blind men groping at the elephant, only seeing part of the picture.

Since today's Chinese society is divided into different interest groups fighting for political power, the media have become a propaganda weapon serving different political and economic camps. These mouthpieces rely upon the "worthy sources" from their political camps for reporting. For example, the media love victim stories. But in most victim stories, the victim should be in "our camp." The victim should not be in "our enemy's camp."

Most media pay little attention to events that aren't deemed newsworthy, however important or truthful. Only stories that capturereaders and sell the newspapers are seen as worthy. War is a story, and peace isn't.

Many Chinese journalists act like judge of truth. Reporting the truth has always been a high-sounding motto for both journalists and journalism educators.

But who gives the media the right to be the arbitrator? Do journalists have the scientific ability to judge the truth or report a truthful story?

In news coverage of big events in China today, reporters are working under the pressure from their audience, advertisers, investors and their political bosses. They can't escape these forms of control.

Many Chinese media outlets pretend to be neutral. But their so-called objective reporting is pseudo-balance and pseudo-neutrality.

If you watch some Chinese TV talk shows, you see those star TV anchors invite their imagined enemy into their talk shows and set him or her up to be ridiculed or shouted at by their audience to achieve dramatic effect.

Good journalism means giving equal broadcast time and newspaper space to reports from the other camp so that your audience will get to know how their imagined enemies are talking and thinking.

But in Chinese journalism practice, no one could survive by being neutral. Chinese editors know it too well that it is a suicide to be objective or neutral in reporting because all media, whether CCTV, Phoenix TV or Southern Weekend, must meet the needs of their audiences and their financial and political supporters with their anticipated news and views.

In an informed society, people have the right to know who is behind the media in creating and spreading rumors and to whose benefit public anger being manipulated. But in China today, the media is run like the mafia, and one never knows who is behind it. There is no media transparency in China.

Many journalists would argue that the goal of a free press is reporting truth. But where is the truth in journalism? Perhaps it only exists in theoretical physics.

The author is a professor of journalism at Tsinghua University Center for International Communication



A dangerous mix of humiliation and desperation is the prevailing mood in the Pakistani Armed Forces and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden in a clandestine chopper-borne raid conducted by US naval commandos on a huge house next to the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) at Abbottabad in the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province.

2. The humiliation of the ISI arises from the fact that OBL was living undetected at Abbottabad for over five years. The international community and large sections of public opinion in Pakistan itself believe that without the complicity or the silent connivance of the ISI he could not have lived that long in that area.

3. In his secret testimony before an in-camera session of the Pakistan Parliament on May 13, Lt.Gen.Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of the ISI, tried to shift part of the blame for this huge intelligence failure on to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Police, both of which come under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. His efforts have failed following allegations by leaders and officials of the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province that the responsibility for intelligence collection and security in garrison towns vested exclusively in the ISI and that the IB and the Police had no role in the matter.

4. The humiliation of the Armed Forces has arisen from the fact that neither the Pakistan Air Force ( PAF) nor the Army was able to detect and prevent the intrusion of the US choppers into the Abbottabad area to kill OBL and escape with his body and a large quantity of documents, computer material and other evidence which could ultimately help the US intelligence , inter alia, to trace the links of OBL with influential people in the Pakistani civil society and the Government.

5. Even though the Armed Forces and the ISI have managed to force the political leadership into expressing its solidarity with them despite their shocking sins of commission and omission, their credibility has been badly damaged in the eyes of the people of the country as well as of the international community.

6.The Army and the ISI have thus far managed to avoid any out-of-house enquiry into the huge intelligence failure that could have arisen from suspected complicity of serving and retired officers of the ISI. The only comprehensive enquiry by an independent commission to which they have agreed is into the security failure which enabled the US to conduct its spectacular commando raid right under the nose of the Army and the Air Force.

7. The vaunted professional reputation of the Army, the Air Force and the ISI is in ruins. The desperation seen is in salvaging the severely damaged reputation in the eyes of the Pakistani people and junior and medium level officers of the Armed Forces. There is a danger of the military and the ISI leadership concluding that without an external adventure against India they may not be able to salvage their reputation and restore the morale of the Armed Forces and the ISI at junior and senior levels.

8. The Government of India should be alert to the danger of such an adventure directed against India through the usual surrogates of the ISI such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba ( LET), or the so-called 303 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri or other anti-India jihadi organizations. The Pakistan Army and the ISI might calculate that re-kindling acts of terrorism against India in J&K and outside might benefit them in two ways. Firstly, to salvage their reputation and restore the morale of their personnel. Secondly, to direct the anger of the LET and other jihadi organizations towards India instead of towards the Pakistani Armed Forces.

9. The jihadi organizations seem to suspect that the spectacular raid at Abbottabad by the US commandos might not have been possible without the knowledge, if not the complicity, of the Armed Forces. This anger against the Armed Forces among the jihadi organizations has already led to two simultaneous acts of suicide terrorism by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) against a group of young recruits to the Frontier Constabulary, a para-military unit, on the day they completed their training in a training centre in the Charsaddha District of the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province.

10. To avoid more such attacks on the Pakistani security forces, the anger of the jihadi organizations may be diverted towards India. There is considerable anger against the US in the Pakistani Armed Forces as well as the civil society. This anger could dilute the ability of the US Government to exercise any restraining influence over such adventurous actions directed against India.

11. The prevailing mindset among senior officers was evident from a reported claim of Pasha before the in-camera session of the Parliament that any Abbottabad-like attack by India would invite a befitting response from Pakistan as targets inside India "had already been identified" and "rehearsal" carried out. It was likely he was indulging in bravado, but one should not minimize the danger of the Pakistani Armed Forces and the ISI provoking border incidents in order to give themselves an opportunity for a retaliatory strike against India. There is a need to mobilize and step up our intelligence collection efforts so that we are not taken by surprise.

12. The spectacular chopper-borne commando raid would be studied not only by the special forces groups of other countries, but also by terrorist organizations in order to see whether similar chopper borne raids could be organized on our territory. Indian targets which could be vulnerable to chopper-borne commando style raids have to be identified and action taken to reduce their vulnerability. (17-5.11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)