Party mouthpiece hails press freedom

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 12:00am

A silent press would allow guilty government officials to escape punishment, the Communist Party's mouthpiece warned yesterday.

The People's Daily rejected claims that publicity in the media would upset social stability and lead to chaos.

'How can exposing public accidents destabilise society?' asked a signed commentary in the newspaper. 'Instead, a silent press is what we fear.'

It said the mainland press had exposed major accidents in Guangxi and Shaanxi provinces and Shanghai.

The People's Daily highlighted the tenacious journalism displayed when a cover-up was exposed of a mining accident in Nandan, Guangxi autonomous region, which killed 81 workers.

The journalists' reporting caught the attention of the central Communist Party and the State Council, it said, and it was only then that a proper investigation could be carried out.

The tragedy occurred when a tin mine flooded last month. Local officials initially tried to cover up the disaster and denied there had been any casualties. More than 70 officials and local gangsters were later arrested after several mainland newspapers stood firm on their reports in exposing the scandal.

China's media has been under tight control and several editors have recently been disciplined for publishing reports deemed too embarrassing or critical of local government officials.

But the People's Daily argued China needed a vocal press.

Public confidence in the Communist Party and Government would be boosted if there were more truthful reports in the press, the commentary said.

It said more exposure of these cover-ups meant the public's right to information was being respected and that society had progressed. 'Because of the courage of [our] media, more accidents have been revealed,' it said.

The article said some people had interpreted the increased reporting of accidents as a signal that society was becoming more chaotic.

While the newspaper did not deny more accidents could denote disorder within the government units and areas where the disasters were happening, it denied this meant society was falling into a state of disarray.