Freedom of the press is a relative term. In my opinion, firstly, the press should be unrestrained; secondly, the press should be responsible to society; and thirdly, the press should promote social stability and progress. The three aspects are integrated, equally important and inseparable. It is harmful to one-sidely stress only one aspect, as this would cause some problems.
The United States once faced this situation. It had much esteem for Liberalism at the very beginning. However, its undue emphasis on this idea resulted in the excessive abuse of the freedom of the press. This was the first period of development of the press theory. Later on, the American press perceived their own problems and therefore, put forward the concept of the responsible press, or the theory of social responsibility, bringing the development of the press theory into the second period of development. Now the world has entered a pose-cold-war period of peace and development. People all over the world yearn for a social environment characterized by stability, progress and peaceful development. They earnestly hope the media will play an even greater role in promoting social stability and progress, instead of causing social turbulence and retrogression. This post-cold-war period, I believe, characterizes the emerging third period of development for the press theory. In my opinion, China’s media is striving to put the three aspects I mentioned earlier into practice.
Many reports on China by the media of the West are not accurate, and sometimes very unobjective and very unfair. Reports on China’s development are rarely seen in Western newspapers. They show little concern for China’s rapid progress, but care only about the difficulties and problems. If one relied only on those reports and ignored the reality of China, the picture of China in one’s mind would be a society soon to collapse. But quite on the contrary, China in fact is a politically very stable society and economically rapid growing country.
We often report problems that exist in the government’s work. Readers may find that our reports on these problems are totally different from Western reports. We know these issues arose naturally in the process of our development. The purpose of our report is to let people offer solutions to these problems, not to stir up social turmoil and lead to misunderstandings and even to the distortion of what is really happening. Only by reporting in this way can a news medium be regarded as responsible to society.