Associated Press is reporting that Chinese censors are giving the press more latitude in reporting problem of tainted food and other food safety issues.
But why do I think this will be just like the numerous times Beijing encouraged reporting on censorship and other problems? As soon as it becomes clear the problem is system wide and that top-ranking party and government officials at numerous ministries allowed the problem to grow and fester, my bet is the shackles will be placed on the media again.
And an important Chinese media leader agrees:
Chang Ping, a former columnist fired from the gutsy Southern Metropolis Weekly for his critiques, said reporters have long had a freer hand on food troubles as long as they portray them as isolated rather, than systemic problems.
“The reports may look very free, but in fact they don’t push anyone to really consider the root causes of what’s going on,” Chang said.
How long do you think the local and national government leaders will allow reporting that affects not just the food supply but — to them — the more important industrial sector.
For example, thousands of hectares are flooded with industrial waste. The toxins and heavy metals in that waste find their way into the food chain.
While there may be a report about tainted food, little is done to stop the source of the poisons and news outlets that point the finger at the industrial polluters are harassed and (often) shut down.
So, let us celebrate a small victory that the masters in Beijing see the importance of media coverage as a way to point out and correct society’s ills. But let us not forget that the Chinese leadership still sees the media’s job to comfort the comfortable and afflict the critics.
Oh, and to the “LOCAL! LOCAL! LOCAL!” advocates: Remember that a lot of tainted items make their way into the local markets. So this is also a VERY local story.