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SARS Impact on China’s Media - 2003-05-28

While there may have appeared some encouraging signs of disclosing the truth about the on-going spread of SARS, some analysts hold that Chinese authorities did not loosen and rather tightened their control and monopoly over China’s media. However, Mr. Robert Giford, an NPR reporter in Beijing, noted that the Chinese authorities have relaxed their control over the media, and that there have been reports in Chinese papers criticizing both government officials who have not done a good job fighting against SARS and the non-transparent one-party system. Dr. Li Xiguang, professor and associate dean of the school of journalism and communications of Qinghua University, opined that China’s media has been opening up according to a pre-arranged schedule. He said the openness of China’s media has not been forced by the SARS epidemic, but rather was hastened and put ahead of schedule because of the epidemic. However, on the other side, some Chinese media experts point out that the SARS epidemic has not resulted in the openness of the news, the transparency of government administration, or the right to know the truth in China. They say the government still exercises a monopoly and control over the sources and disclosures of news in China, and disallows independent non-governmental news reporting. They also point out that it is still premature to say if the openness will really keep on once the SARS epidemic is over.