China putting pressure on Scandinavian media
Beijing on Tuesday demanded an apology from Jyllands-Posten after the Danish newspaper published a satirical drawing featuring a Chinese flag with each of the stars depicted as coronaviruses. Stockholm had already summoned China's ambassador in mid-January for repeatedly trying to put pressure on public television broadcasters and newspapers. Danish and Swedish media agree that they must not give in to the Chinese on this issue.
Cultural differences no reason for restraint
Jyllands-Posten shows only moderate understanding for Beijing's concerns:
“The Chinese reaction can supposedly be explained by cultural differences and different views on the meaning of the flag. But it is also well known that cultural differences imply a different understanding of civil liberties. And it is just as well known that the Chinese state has intensified its efforts to suppress the free word in China, as well as its attempts to put pressure on states, the media and the cultural industry to assert its own interests. In this context, full support for freedom of expression from Danish politicians and the government is encouraging.”
What distinguishes free media from propaganda
Media critics should keep a close eye on the developments, Dagens Nyheter advises:
“In recent years, traditional media in democratic countries have been harshly criticised. Aren't they also engaging in a form of propaganda? Isn't their reporting also biased? ... However, anyone who can't see the crucial difference between free media and state-controlled propaganda can't have spent long in a dictatorship or an authoritarian state. Media make mistakes in democracies. ... It is important that attention is drawn to these mistakes, that they are debated and corrected, and that there are effective control systems for newspapers, radio, television and websites. In Beijing there is only Xi and the Chinese Communist Party.”