By Lynette Lee Corporal*
CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Dec 9 (IPS/TerraViva) – The changing ‘face’ of the media landscape in the Mekong region is eliciting both excitement and fear from observers and professionals alike.
The growing power of new media and citizen journalism, the increased involvement of civil society organisations in the dissemination of information, and the often conflicting issues between perceived image and the actual ‘media product’ are just some of the issues tackled in the Mekong Media Forum, being held here from Dec. 9 to 12.
In a session titled ‘Shifts in the Media Landscape’, both journalists and academics underscored the need for more cooperation and vigilance if all Mekong countries — comprising Burma, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam — are to see more confluence rather than divergence and if they are to be viewed by the international media sans western lenses.
Chinese journalist Li Gun cited China’s efforts toward this end.
After the international controversy brought about by the much-maligned Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay that trained the global spotlight on the Chinese government’s human rights policies, the state began to pursue a ‘media makeover’.
“China is employing a top-down approach in its aim to expand its international media influence,” said Lin Gu, a freelance journalist from Beijing and a former fellow of the ‘Imaging Our Mekong’ training programme for journalists that IPS Asia-Pacific and Probe Media Foundation have been implementing since 2002.
Lin Gu was referring to the Chinese government’s efforts to ’soften’ the country’s image in light of international criticism about its stance on political issues involving Tibet and Burma.
“After the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese government thought hard as it realised its need to expand its media influence,” added the two-time awardee of the Asia Development Bank Institute’s Developing Asia Journalism Award. “This attempts to “offer a Chinese perspective of Chinese affairs.”
Other developments that indicate China’s push for a space to air its view of the world include the launch in April 2009 the English-language newspaper ‘Global Times’. Continue reading “The changing ‘face’ of the media landscape in the Mekong region is eliciting both excitement and fear from observers and professionals alike.”
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