German President Horst Kohler joined a discussion on freedom of the press between editors-in-chief from German and Chinese media outlets Thursday in Shanghai, calling for a greater sense of social responsibility of the media of both sides.
The editors-in-chief attended the China-Germany Media Forum during the previous three days, and discussed urbanization, environmental issues and most importantly the different perception of media freedom between the German and Chinese journalists.
While acknowledging the progress of China and its media industry, Kohler asked the Chinese attendees, "As editors-in-chief, how much freedom do you give to the editors and reporters?"
The question immediately triggered colorful responses from Chinese journalists.
"The German media believe the Communist Party of China has set a red line for all of us," said Chen Xiaochuan, editor-in-chief of China Youth Daily. "That line does not exist."
China has thousands of newspapers, magazines and TV stations, which espouse different views because of their different values. They focus on everything, from environmental protection to civil rights, Chen said.
"However, we may have one red line, which is the common belief that the Dalai Lama is a separatist," he said.
While many German representatives feel the "amiable old monk" is sincere about peace, Chinese journalists pointed out that when the Dalai Lama turned his face from the Chinese government, he meant for separation of a "greater Tibet."
Liu Beixian, president of China News Service, said he never criticizes reporters for reporting on a sensitive issue but he would blame them for not reporting it.
"However, we may have a guideline," he said. "It's the 2,000-year-old Chinese value that believes writers have certain responsibilities - the responsibility to promote social progress, civilization, freedom and democracy."
Zhao Zhongying, deputy chief of China National Radio, said she believes that in her mind, news reporting should uncover and solve problems, not make them worse.
The Chinese editors also told their German counterparts that they are more than ever before concerned about circulation, as they are not financed by the government like before.
"But we can't twist the truth in news stories for circulation," said Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, adding that some news media from both countries might have exaggerated the seriousness of news events to attract more readers.
Peter Limbourg, editor-in-chief of the German TV channel N-24, agreed that the me-dia should take responsibility besides being concerned only about circulation.
"In Germany, the media are also debating whether we were unfair in covering the Greece issue," he said.
"Attacking a nation does no good for the integration of Europe."
Kohler admitted that Germans might be too narrow-minded if they see China as a hardworking nation "ruled" by authority.
"I've seen both the metropolitan cities and the under-developed remote areas in Chi-na," he said.
"I understand that the government sees narrowing the gap of the rich and poor, and the country's stability, as its utmost tasks."
The media forum, sponsored by the Global Times and Robert Bosch Foundation, will be held in Germany next year.