Both what to report and when to report it can be legitimately debated in an editorial room. But not whether to accept demands to conceal “unflattering” truth for the sake of being allowed to report at all.
That’s the “dilemma” some news organizations face when they wish to report from within a country whose government will deny access unless they toe the line.
The reportage by longtime Reuters journalist Paul Mooney, who specializes in China, has apparently been too candid. The Chinese government has denied him a visa. His career there may be over. What should Reuters do?
Not what Bloomberg News did when its reporting incurred the displeasure of Chinese officials. Bloomberg spiked an investigative report about the financial ties between billionaire businessmen and Politiburo officials, for fear of being ejected from the country. Bloomberg insists that it has merely delayed the story. But the motive is clearly a desire to appease the Chinese government, which has already blocked the Bloomberg News website inside China and refused new visas to Bloomberg journalists.
Instead of killing or deferring disapproved journalism, any news outfit threatened with expulsion by an authoritarian government should publish its honest reports and let the chips fall where they may. If kicked out, it should seek other ways to report on the country. Covert communiqués from careful Chinese citizens. Secondary sources if necessary. That’s better than actively cooperating with wrongdoers to hide their sins.
It’s really not too different from crime reporting. Crime bosses don’t like a nosy press, either.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.