Saturday, May 10, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Journalists Speak Up

In a clear sign that the student movement had appeared to run its cause, New York Times did not have any news on the movement for the two days of May 8 and 9, 1989. On May 10, NYT resumed reporting from Beijing, but it was about journalists' call for press freedom:
In the strongest appeal so far for freedom of the press in China, more than 1,000 journalists from official news organizations signed a petition that was presented to the Government today calling for talks with China's leaders.
The goal of the talks would be to discuss independence of the press, broader coverage of major events like the recent student demonstrations, and the dismissal of the editor in chief of a Shanghai newspaper.
''The reason we are calling for such a dialogue is that our press coverage has attracted criticism at home and abroad,'' said Li Datong, an editor at the China Youth News. ''We think that the press in Beijing has failed to be comprehensive and fair in its coverage. And we think this is the direct result of our current press system.''
The petition, which was presented to the All-China Journalists Association by about 100 journalists, criticized press censorship in coverage of the recent student demonstrations and demanded a change in the Communist Party's role in press coverage.
Among the non-students, journalists were the first group who had organized their protests, joining the demonstration on May 4, 1989. It was no coincidence. Journalists had been witnessing the movement first-hand, yet they could not faithfully report any of it until several days ago. The banning of the World Economic Herald in Shanghai touched them in the core.

Li Datong (李大同), the leader of this journalist petition, was later persecuted and suspended from his editor job for five years. In 1995, he was allowed back to his job and established Freezing Point (冰点), a regular supplementary issue within the China Youth News. It became very popular for its daring commentary on issues of China's history and culture.

In 2005, Freezing Point was sharply criticized by the Party Propaganda Department and shut down. Li Datong was also fired. Today, Li Datong appeared to a free-lance writer, writing columns for newspapers in Hong Kong. He also managed to publish a couple of memoirs about Freezing Point in China.

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