A Free Press in China Could Have Prevented the Coronavirus Pandemic, Media Watchdog Says

trongman leaders around the world are using the coronavirus crisis to stifle journalists, a leading press freedom watchdog has warned, as it bemoaned a missed opportunity to highlight the severity of the outbreak in its early days in Wuhan, China.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) criticized China for censoring early coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, telling CNN Business that the global pandemic could have been averted or lessened had journalists had more freedom in the country.
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One thought on “A Free Press in China Could Have Prevented the Coronavirus Pandemic, Media Watchdog Says

  • April 21, 2020 at 9:56 am
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    «If there had been a free press in China, if these whistleblowers hadn’t been silenced, then this could have been prevented from turning into a pandemic,” RSF’s UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent told CNN Business, as the group unveiled its annual assessment of media liberty in 180 countries.» Ms Vincent doesn’t know what she’s talking about. On Friday 27 December 2019, Dr Zhang Jixian, director of the Department of Respiratory and CriticalCare at Hubei Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, reported the first three cases of atypical pneumonia. Two days later, on Sunday 29 December, the local and provincial centres for disease control and prevention and hospitals in Wuhan and Hubei commenced an epidemiological investigation. On Monday 30 December the Wuhan Municipal Health Committee issued an “urgent notice on the treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause”. It was first on this very same day, that Dr Li Wenliang, an ophthalmalogist, who is generally referred to as a «whistleblower» by media in North America and Europe, alerted by Dr Ai Fen, director of the emergency department of the Wuhan Central Hospital, posted to a WeChat group of his former classmates about these cases. On Tuesday 31 December, the Chinese National Helath Commission sent an expert group to Wuhan to investigate. On Friday, 3 January, the WHO was apprised of the situation…

    Perhaps Ms Vincent could explain how Dr Li’s post to his WeChat group «could have been prevented [Covid-19] from turning into a pandemic» ? The authorities were already investigating the case when Dr Li posted his message ; within a few days the WHO was informed about the outbreak. In what way did the lack of a «free press» in China, or the «silencing» of a «whistleblower» (Dr Li signed a paper agreeing not to post to public fora like WeChat ; he was not detained, nor was he punished and he retained his job) contribute to turning this outbreak into the pandemic we are witnessing today ?…

    If the above is the sort of «journalism» which representatives of RSF are advocating, then I fear we need less, rather than more of it. Instead of pushing a narrative with which the RSF – and I dare say, their sponsors in North America and Europe – are comfortable, perhaps doing some investigative journalism to determine what actually happened would be in order ?…

    Henri

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