In China, Western Journalists Face Challenges, Threats
BU prof says local students buy government line
Click on the audio player to listen to an interview from Beijing with Anne Donohue, a COM associate professor.
The five cuddly, brightly colored “Fuwa” mascots of this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing send the world wishes for “prosperity, happiness, passion, health, and good luck,” according to the Olympic Games’ English-language Web site.
But as China goes all out with Olympic preparations, and as foreign media flood its cities, some Web-based patriots have a less welcoming message for Western journalists who write about China’s human rights record, particularly the country’s response to recent riots in Tibet. New sites, such as anti-cnn are filled with complaints about the “lies” of Western media, and laced with exhortations such as, “Beat to death these unjust conscienceless criminals.” Some Western reporters have been personally threatened with harm. “The Chinese people don’t welcome you, American running dog,” reads an e-mail to an Associated Press reporter. “Your reports twist the facts and you will suffer the curse of heaven.” A text message to a Western journalist states simply, “One of these days I’m going to kill you.”
“Western news bureaus have been inundated with nasty, scary stuff,” says Anne Donohue, a College of Communication associate professor of journalism, who is currently in Beijing on a Fulbright award teaching her craft to Chinese students at the People’s University of China. Donohue says the Chinese government has been pushing the bias story through its official media, with daily headlines decrying the coverage. In a phone interview from Beijing, Donohue tells BU Today that her undergraduate journalism students, people she would expect to be natural skeptics, are buying the official storyline of a Western media conspiracy “hook, line, and sinker.”
“These students really see the world in a very different way,” she says over a crackling phone line. “They think that nationalism or building up their country at all costs is the most important thing, and that’s more important than any other freedoms they would want.”
To learn more about China and the Olympics, listen to WBUR’s On Point, which this week is broadcasting live from Shanghai.
Chris Berdik can be reached at email@example.com.