You can’t express your own opinion.

by whiteoxeye

Critical Chinese journalist loses job – The Straits Times, Saturday, January 29 2011

(Click here for a more detailed report on this issue)

Mr Chang Ping was a prominent columnist and veteran journalist at the Southern Weekend Group in China. He is notorious for being critical of the Chinese government. Just yesterday he was “forced to resign” from his position because he refused to tone down  his writing, and also because his bosses were “under pressure” from government propaganda authorities.

Most of us know that China adopts censorship in all their media. Well for those who had no clue, China pretty much censors everything from print media to the Internet, in fact censorship is applied to any media that have the ability to reach wide audiences. China, already so tight about what is exposed to its citizens, then comes Mr Chang Ping, a journalist who works in a major media company, and most of his works are critics about the weaknesses of the Chinese government (corruption, lack of political reform and the latest column on the violent anti-government riots in Tibetan regions in 2008 that questioned the government portrayal of the unrest as “sabotage” instigated by the Dalai Lama) Of course, he had to be censored too, didn’t he?

Funny how I naturally agreed with the criticisms of the social constructionist perspective, that people have become social performers because the theory was exaggerated in the sense that people have become so much more conscious about their social self instead of their individual self. The fact that we have unknowingly become people who are so politically correct in order to escape the troubles of miscommunication and that we have become so concerned about how other people view us based on what we say and do. It sounded so right, I almost forgot about people like Mr Chang Ping. I almost forgot that I, myself cannot care less about what others think at times.

So, what does a columnist do, you may ask. A columnist is a journalist who writes for publication in a series, creating an article that usually offers commentary and opinions. Mr Chang Ping was forced to resign because he did what he was hired to do, create articles that offers commentary and opinions. Because of the fact that he is in China, he is expected to be a social performer, to write what is appropriate, to ignore his own opinions and to write what the Chinese government wants China to read.

I feel his pain, for being punished for his words, as he put it.

He is not the first journalist to be annihilated for expressing his own opinions. An editor at CNN was fired last year for expressing her own thoughts on Twitter. This case is a little more controversial as she praised a Hezbollah-linked cleric provided a “good lesson” on what to write online. Citing just one more case from Yahoo! news, veteran reporter Helen Thomas had to forfeit her front-row seat in the White House briefing room after commenting that Jews should leave Israel and “go home”.

What all these examples suggest is that if you aspire to be a journalist, be prepared to leave your opinions behind before you graduate. If you have forgotten to do so, prepare a vault and lock all your opinions away, away from the world. Of course, you may infer from all these that in order to be a successful journalist, you just have to be politically correct and always be mindful of what you say and how you say it. No worries, you can still be yourself, except that you have transformed into a social performer, like everyone else. Who cares about being unique anymore, right?