Three journalists, three countries, one profession

The author with another summit participant, Guillaume Cheneviere, director of the Swiss-based Media and Society Foundation.
The author with another summit participant, Guillaume Cheneviere, director of the Swiss-based Media and Society Foundation

I realized one thing when I attended the 6th Asia Media Summit in Macau last month: media systems in several parts of the world are so different from one another, yet they are also so the same, in some ways.

They’ve faced problems in the past, but they look forward to seeing a much better practice of journalism in the future.

China

Wang Lu of China said Chinese media are supported largely by state money.

“At first, media were established simply to be the voice of the ruling party and facilitate information flow from the government to the public,” she said.

“Just because the media in China are run by the government doesn’t mean they must report the positive sides only.”

– Wang Lu, vice president of China Radio International’s English service

But she said “China has been experiencing rapid economic development and social transformation” since the late 1970s.

“Media content, therefore, quickly diversified to include non-ideological focuses such as business and social news,” Wang Lu said.

She added that “just because the media in China are run by the government doesn’t mean they must report the positive sides only.”

Wang Lu recognized though that “there’s still a lot for Chinese media and their governing authorities to learn.”

Germany

Gerda Meuer of Germany said media were “at the core of the cause” when Adolf Hitler and his supporters prepared the German people to wage a war against the world.

“When Hitler came to power, he utilized the media with cruel perfection: It was mainstreamed, centralized and censored.”

– Gerda Meuer, managing director of Germany’s DW-AKADEMIE

Meuer said the media then were controlled by the ruling government, which “made cheap radio receivers available to everyone.”

She noted that the German media then had a simple structure.

“When Hitler came to power, he utilized the media with cruel perfection: It was mainstreamed, centralized and censored,” Meuer said.

She said that after World War II, the Allies forced Germany’s media to decentralize and become totally separate from the state.

There was some initial resistance to the idea, she said.

“Yet, a compromise was found and a system of counterbalancing different political interests was established,” Meuer said.

“And at the same time, the new constitution guaranteed freedom of the press,” she added.

Today, Meuer said, her country has one of the more complex media systems in the world.

“It’s far from perfect,” she said, “but it has helped maintain more than 60 years of peace on a continent that before had seen war and civil conflict in every single generation.”

Nepal

Kunda Dixit of Nepal said deregulated radio and community FM radios have had an instant effect on grassroots democracy and development in many countries.

“The power of media must be used to force elected leaders to be more accountable, and as an effective check and balance.”

– Kunda Dixit, editor and publisher of the Nepali Times weekly newspaper in Kathmandu

“The achievement of Nepal’s citizens’ radio in establishing community broadcasting and then defending it from a dictatorial regime in 2005 has become a model for public radio in other parts of the region,” he said.

But Dixit said the media should always maintain their vigilance.

“The power of media must be used to force elected leaders to be more accountable, and as an effective check and balance,” he said.

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