Let all views be heard, not suppressed in media

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2009, 12:00am

The mainland is no exception to the information revolution wrought by the internet. What sets it apart though is that the internet increasingly fills a gap created by official curbs on what newspapers, radio and television can publish. Despite a sophisticated online monitoring system, the internet remains difficult to police and netizens have proved bold and resourceful at circulating news and comment.

As a result, controversial issues that might have been contained locally have gone national online. The potential this creates for mass dissent in a year of politically sensitive anniversaries understandably troubles the authorities. But it will continue to trouble them as long as they try to prevent legitimate issues of public interest being openly debated and addressed.

As we report today, the hottest topic in chat room discussions yesterday was an article in the official magazine Outlook Weekly that has sparked fears of a fresh online crackdown. It called for more support for internet monitors and propaganda officials in tackling netizens' ability to mobilise protests and criticism about official corruption, legal and administrative injustice, and disputes between the rich and poor. The article accused local officials of lacking understanding of the power of the internet to create 'mass incidents'.

Publication of the article follows online and media outrage over a murder charge against a pedicurist in Hubei province after she stabbed an official who demanded sex. The uproar forced the release of the woman and the sacking of two colleagues of the official present at the time. The lesson here is that rather than focusing on how to crack down more effectively on netizens and their rights of freedom of information and expression, the authorities should divert resources to devising a more transparent and accountable system for dealing with grievances and injustices.

The internet would soon cease to be a hotbed of dissent and a platform for organised protest if a wide range of views were allowed to be expressed and debated in the media.