Responsible media can help make peace

Chinese officials should restrain and guide their media to stick to facts and run nothing but the truth to avoid international doubt on China’s intentions following much distorted information and insulting comments made by the Chinese media referring to the East Sea recently.

Responsible media can help make peace ảnh 1
Vietnam's sovereignty stela on Song Tu Tay Islet (Southwest Cay Islet) in the East Sea.

Prestigious newspapers in China ran headlines on Monday saying that Vietnam and China have agreed to talk out the East Sea dispute amicably, commenting also that tensions between the two countries have begun to lessen.

China Daily cited Yang Baoyun, a scholar on Southeast Asia at Beijing University, as saying that the territorial conflict between China and Vietnam over the East Sea was never as serious as newspapers have made it look.

What is truth and what is actual fact?

Chinese newspapers for the past month, especially Chinese news websites, have often run incorrect news articles laced with comments that lack goodwill, are in bad taste, insulting to the Vietnamese people and send out threats of war.

Responding to such fabricated stories, many Vietnamese readers have called for settling the conflict through discussion. They have repeatedly stated that Vietnamese people always wished to maintain peaceful and friendly relations with China.

Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Foreign affairs, Ho Xuan Son and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo mentioned in a recent exchange between them that the two countries must commit to guiding public opinion away from any statements or actions that can damage the trust of the people in the two countries for each other as well jeopardize the friendship between them.

This clearly means that leaders of both China and Vietnam have realized that media and public opinion can largely affect the relationship between the two countries. There’s a Chinese saying that once a word is out, we cannot take it back. So it seems there is no retracting the volley of statements and comments made by the Chinese media recently.

One can only hope then that the Chinese government’s timely action to cool down the ongoing tension and wish peace with its neighbor may make Chinese newspapers realize the benefits of maintaining goodwill.

When a Danish newspaper ran a caricature of Muhammad ibn Abdullāh, founder of the Islamic religion, in 2005, the pride of many Muslims was hurt. The cartoon incited a series of terrorist attacks by extremist Muslims in Western countries. Many processions and protests resulted in dozens of innocent deaths and property of Danish embassies was damaged in several countries.

The media, therefore, not only helps to  construct and develop a country but also plays a responsible role in building trust in international relations, maintaining peace, stability and credibility in a region as well as through out the world.

When the media provides incorrect or biased information, the managers of the agencies or the country leaders are the first to be blamed.

Chinese officials have kept a stoic silence for a long time, even when knowing that their newspapers are distorting facts and running articles which are far from the actual truth. This is affecting the cordial relationship built by Vietnam and China for the last 20 years.

This passive attitude has put a question on the world community that is Chinese media running stories ordered by Chinese officials to see how Vietnam reacts or is it threatening Vietnam.

Some people also suspect China of trying to stir local public opinion in its favor on the East Sea dispute while stirring it away from the present very chaotic social and economic upheavals ongoing in mainland China.