“Reporting in China”

From the reliably excellent Melissa Chan at Al Jazeera, a piece on the difficulty of being a journalist in China:

“Intimidating sources and not reporters has become a more common practice by the Chinese government to block information. Often we speak to incredibly vulnerable people at the lowest socio-economic rung. It is easy to bully them into submission. But even then, it is remarkable that in my years of reporting in China, many people remain willing to speak to journalists despite the danger of retaliation. They perceive that a great injustice has been done to them and feel the need to articulate that. Many also feel they have nothing to lose. In the case of Mr. Yang, I do believe he must’ve felt he had nothing to lose. He’d lost his child. His house was a wood and brick shack, his floor of dirt, and his farming tools not much changed, it appeared, from the ones farmers used in the 19th century.

In the afternoon our team decided to drive around and film the town and surrounding countryside. It would be included in our piece to show viewers how remote this place was. At some point, our hired driver noticed a van had been tracking us for some time. My first inclination was to ignore the van — they can be quite harmless, and the men from earlier in the day had chosen to check us out, then leave us alone. Sometimes these plainclothes officers or thugs would follow us around, taking digital pictures of us as we worked in order to have a record. As long as you’re not self-conscious about it, it is fine.

The van drove past us, looking to leave. But, on a narrow street, it slowed… slowed… then stopped in front of us, blocking our way. We sat there a moment, and then the van doors opened and a number of men jumped out, looking ugly. We locked our doors.”

As she says in the beginning, we all understand that being a journalist in China isn’t easy. Learning exactly how difficult it really is makes you thankful that anyone manages to report anything here.

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Filed under China, intimidation, journalism

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