9:00 PM, my mobile rings. It was from +1915xxxxx, an American number. I picked up the phone and a girl with British tone asked if I am “Wang Jian Shuo”. Actually she called from London, a reporter for BBC. She asked about the China Blogger Conference which was just held this weekend. Questions were: “What is the aim of the conference and what is the key take-aways from the conference ” I answered with what I think is right.
Not surprisingly, she asked about censorship again. I have formed a formula that BBC interview = censorship question interview.
The Last Time
I was interviewed by BBC less than one month ago. The reporter (actually a good friend of my friend) arrived in Shanghai and discussed a lot of things during the interview with a big microphone. We talked lots of topics from blogging to the China society. I guess the interview continued for about half an hour. Within the interview, he asked about the censorship of blogging in China. I don’t want to comment on this since I have my own view on this. So I said: “I don’t want to comment on this”.
Several days later, the radio program was broadcasted to the world. It is a program around censorship. The only thing with my name in the radio was “No comment”. The program sounded like this (I don’t remember the exact terms though): Many bloggers faced the pressure of the censorship. Chinese blogger, Jian Shuo Wang even don’t want to talk about it. (Original recording): “What do you think of the censorship of the blogging world in China?” “I don’t want to comment on this”. (end of the recording). The program continued to anther person.
Dan Washburn, the experienced reporter from TIME told me, everything is “on the record” in western media. If you don’t want to say something, don’t mention it at all. It appears even “Not to mention” does express something.
Actually, I am not comfortable that my words were taken out of the context to support another view that I don’t agree.
Do You Want to Be on Air?
The organizer of the China Blogger Conference, Isaac Mao, also has the experience with BBC. Last time, when he was driving on the high way, BBC called and told him that it was LIVE broadcasting and want to interview him. He pulled his car over to the emergency lane and talked about some time. Isaac admitted that it was too rush for him. Obviously an live broadcasting from BBC was not a pleasant surprise:.
The reporter who called me asked whether I can speak on the LIVE program for BBC this evening London time. She was preparing the issue to be broadcast tonight at 6:45 AM London time. The topic will be the China Blogger Conference. I am pretty sure the topic will be around censorship again. I think the time is just too early for me. It is so easy to convert Greenwich Mean Time to Shanghai time, since one is GMT +0 and Shanghai is GMT +8. So I said I prefer to have a better sleep other than wake up at 4:00 AM in the morning. The other reason is, just as the previous interview, I was not 100% comfortable when I am approached with a pre-defined conclusion and my role is just to be an evidence to support the idea. That is neither interesting nor meaningful.
The Gap? The Communication?
The problem I see besides the two worlds are, there are too many pre-defined questions like censorship and BBC is trying to find piece of information, filter it and create an exciting picture for people in the “civilized” world. I do believe in two-way communication, that real life is seen by the world. As everyone can see, there is not much censorship on this blog and I can talk the topic I choose to talk about.
One of the topics on the China Blogger Conference was very interesting. It talked about eliminating the gap between two conflicting culture/countries/regions by sharing ideas with blogging. Bloggers in India and Pakistan already did it. Bloggers from China and Japan are doing so, based on what I heard. Bloggers from both sides of the Taiwan Strait are joining hand to analyze the gap of understanding. These may be better effort than BBC’s report.
Disclaimer: This is only based on the limited experience I had with BBC and may not reflect the reality. Keep in mind that misunderstanding happens all the time, from father and son, husband and wife, to people from two different cultures. I appreciate if someone can point out the reason of the misunderstanding I have (if it is).
Update November 10, 2005
Ops. I didn’t check out this post after the whole day and when I am back, I found a lot of people have gathered here. So welcome, everyone. Have a great day, or night or morning here (depending on where you are located).
I admit that I was misleading in my previous post. It is for sure that there is censorship in China. Everyone inside or ourside China sees it. The GFW is upgrading, sites are taken down, and blogging services are censoring some keywords, and I feel the pressure to talk on certain sensitive topics. To disagree on the way BBC reports does not mean I think there is no censorship in China.
Censorship is a tough topic to discuss. I have been reporting this issue since three years ago. I roughly counted that there should be tens of entries on this blog. I made a small note when blogbus and other BSP were taken down, when blogspot were banned, when one more sites were filtered and monitor the behavior of GFW. I found my first article on the censorship is in Sept 2002, when most people didn’t start blogging. According to that censorship law, my site has been an illegal site for three years. Spent 5 minutes on the archive page will see the discussion on this topic.
I found the most misleading sentence I used in this article is “there is not much censorship on this blog and I can talk the topic I choose to talk about.” What I meant was, there is difference between censorship and self-censorship. If you have enough courage, you can talk whatever we choose too without censorship (if you don’t host your blog in a local BSP). I proudly archived all my articles on the topics that are considered sensitive.
In the last three years, I was happy that I did spend effort to approach the truth, although it is very hard. To be true to myself is not always easy as it seemed to be. I have to face pressure from both inside or outside China.
For example, I started to report SARS independantly from Feb, 2003. In March and April, when all the media says there is no SARS, it was not easy to always stand up and report the panic people had no matter what was in the media. When I look back, I even didn’t believe the courage I had when I faced the inquiries from western media to stick to the truth. However, to critize the government does not ALWAYS mean to be closer to the truth. When strong and effective actions were taken and SARS were under control, and we didn’t feel the panic, the western media still reported all the bad things despite of the efforts people made, it is equally hard to say “Protecting China, Not only Against SARS” to fight back on the dishonest discussion in western media. I don’t think the attack I got is less than the attack I got when I spoke out the truth of SARS. In 2003, I learnt the way many media worked, and didn’t feel very comfortable when so many media warned people NOT to go to China as late as the end of 2003. I admit there are always confusion inside myself and sometime I even argue whether I am doing the right thing? My mind changed a lot in three years. What I can tell myself is, at least I tried harder than others to clarify the truth (which is not always possible for me to approach).
However, no matter what attack and pressure I got, I believe it is always right to be truthful to my heart and do not put anything that I personally don’t believe in this blog. This is the rule.
The reason I was not comfortable with the interview is not talking about censorship. The problem is, I don’t want to be put into a condition that there is a pre-set conclusion and my role is just to act as a victim in the story and confirm it. I felt happy that I didn’t accept the live broadcast. Although the reporter said it is only a program about the recent Chinese Blogging Conference, she started the program like this:
“Now in China, the great wall has been replaced by the great firewall. In cyber spaces, the Chinese government uses electronic firewalls to control information coming into another country. Cenorship is there. There are thousands of Internet police monitoring what you say and look at on the web. If they find something they don’t like, you could end up in prison.”
Then poor Yining was introduced to the program. Listen to the radio program again and imagine what you will feel. No wonder why Yining was also angry and wrote this on this blog after the interview:
“Rabiya, BBC, and all the big media:
Do NOT set the interviewees up, do NOT use the interviewees, do NOT manipulate them by cornerning them and directing them to the opinions you yourself want to present, so to fit into your own political agenda.
So if that’s what you are doing, sorry, there is no way I can cooperate.
Tonight, it’s not about censorship, but fair and professional reporting. Censorship is another game, we will play it another day.”
On this issue, I fully understand Yining and support what he said.
The other reason I don’t want to comment is, “to report the fact does not always mean to report the truth”. The agenda of discussion also matters. By setting up topics to discuss, the program is actaully filting a lot of things out. For example, when SARS happens, only reporting the facts like leaders from other countries are visiting (which is 100% true) , but ignoring SARS in the headline does not mean the local media is honest. It is the same in the BBC case. When I found I was put into a position that both “yes” or “no” answer are wrong answer, the only thing I can say is “no comment”. For example, if you ask “Do you have censorship in UK?” If you say “No censorship”, it is absolutely wrong. However, if you just say “Yes”, it also does not reflect the fact that it is not the whole thing of blogging in UK. Censorship is there, as everyone can see. However, when BBC claimed “Chinese Blogging Conference” is a conference to seek for freedom of speech, it is at least not complete. Even when so many people pointed my nose and say “coward”, I believe it is the right thing to say because I have no control of how my voice will appear in the program. Every single sentence or word may be taken out of the context to support something I have no idea yet. I have been put into this position several times in western media before. This time, I became smarter.
At least, the point is not about whether there IS censorship or not. The reality cannot be more clear. The point is, do NOT put other people’s words into my mouth. I will keep blogging about what I see, instead of 1 minute in a program under the agenda set by others.
Having said that, I admit I am not always right. I am clearly aware of it. That is the reason I trust two way communication. If there is anything wrong, tell me, and show me the fact. I want everyone to be aware that what I see, and what I hear is just a very limited part of the world. I see happiness in my life. I see people’s effort to make progress. I know many people in the same city see a different scene, and they also blog about it. That is the beauty of blogging – the wisdom of crowd is the most complete picture of the real world.
My favorate story is the “blind man and the elephant”. We are all the blind man. What I try to avoid is to touch a leg of the elephant but follow others to describe elephant’s ear. What I don’t see is what I don’t see. I don’t want to cheat. I appreciate diversified voices. I appreciate people’s tolerance to what I expressed in this blogging (for three years). Just as people have the right to talk about the dark side of the sociaty, I have the right to talk both bright side and the dark site (which I am not big fan of).
Well. Too much comment – the longest comment I had made on this blog. Again, I appreciate everyone’s point of view, and I feel sorry that my previous entry gave people the feeling that I was denying the existance of censorship. I didn’t mean it.