Rights of Reporters Affirmed

“On the eve of the November 8 Reporters’ Day, the General Administration of Press and Publication (‘GAPP’) issued a Notice regarding ‘Further Improvement on Safeguarding the Work of News Reporting’. The Notice points out that there is a need to legally protect the rights of both news organizations and news reporters. The media are entitled to five legal rights where news reporting concerns the national interest and the public interest: information access right, news reporting right, speech right, criticizing right and scrutiny right. The Notice also confirms that no organization or individual is allowed to disrupt or impede the legal news reporting activities of news organizations and their reporting and editorial staff. This Notice is a gift from the GAPP to all news workers on Reporters’ Day.

As a matter of fact, when the GAPP Director Liu Binjie 柳斌杰 paid a visit to the headquarters of the Nanfang Daily Group at the end of last month, he already clearly revealed the core spirit of the Notice. He is of the opinion that the news reporting arena is at a critical stage of reform. In the new époque, there is a need for change in areas such as the systematic development in journalism, the growth model, the management methodology and conceptual thinking. Not only is media reporting required to be ‘accurate, timely, open and transparent’, it is also expected to improve in the aspect of ‘orderly opening up’ and ‘orderly management’. In particular, there is a need to fully protect the participating right of the media in important happenings in society.

As a declaration, the Notice does send a positive signal from the angle of upholding the Constitution. That is, it places both media management and media rights on equal footing – emphasizing on one hand the necessity of management from an administrator’s viewpoint, rendering an orderly operation of the media, and on the other paying attention to the media’s rights, respecting the function and status of news organizations in public affairs. In short, the Notice will see the union of protection of media rights and values of media management, eyeing management from a progressive viewpoint while treating the media with a relaxed attitude.

The most commendable part is that the GAPP, as the highest level of administrators in media management, goes all out to affirm the rights of the media – it loudly declares that news organizations possess all the five rights combined and the entire process of news reporting is covered by the rights protection clauses. Any organization or individual is prohibited from rudely interfering with reporters exercising their five rights in the course of doing their job. Otherwise, such organization or individual would be deemed as contravening the law and infringing on others’ rights. This is the salient part of the Notice and it demonstrates the issuer’s courage and sense of obligation. In this respect, the orderly operation of the press and management of the media are not contradictory to each other – they are complementary to each other.

The promotion of the five media rights is beneficial to the media’s developing a proper style of news reporting. It is also helpful to the media in the defense of their rights via legal channels and thus will have an empowering effect on the media. At the same time, the affirmation of the five rights is also a self-improving agent for the concept of management. Although the Notice cannot be expected to eliminate overnight all factors that adversely affect the media’s five rights, rights are after all the basis of an orderly process. Any theoretical and moral improvement in respect of such rights will ultimately have an impact on reality and hence create conditions for the liberation of the press.

While affirming the media’s rights, the GAPP has also raised the standard of management by, for example, making it clear for the first time that the press cards issued by it are the only legal press cards for reporters. This rule will do away with the identification cost on the part of society in trying to differentiate between true and fake reporters. It is in direct response to the ‘gag fee’ incidents

The present-day public opinion backdrop is going through a historical transformation. As a result, there is a call for the media management process to strike a balance between relaxing and controlling. The fact is, a management framework that complies with the prevailing wishes of the public needs more and more to take into account the interests and rights of the media and of the public.”

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