Understanding human rights journalism in the context of China: The case of the Beijing Olympics

Luo, Di (2017) Understanding human rights journalism in the context of China: The case of the Beijing Olympics. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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The development of journalism studies has generated increasing interest in researching for a more advanced journalistic role in local and global contexts, where the theory of Human Rights Journalism (HRJ) rises in response in a timely fashion. This PhD study contributes to the development of the theory of HRJ in the following three ways.

First, it expands the theory of human rights journalism beyond universal human rights with a focus on individual rights (Western countries) to group rights with a focus on the community (China); According to the findings from the content analysis, interviews and survey, the 5 core elements of the HRJ model (diagnostic reporting, interventionist, proactive, peace journalism, and empathy/critical frame), informed by the universal human rights ethics, need to be adapted to the Chinese political, economic, social and cultural contexts informed by group rights to ensure its smooth practice in China. Unlike the human rights journalists in the Western context, this extended HRJ model argues that the Chinese and foreign human rights journalists must handle the power of negotiations carefully with the state, market and society in China.

Second, the Chinese media landscape is too restrictive to allow for the smooth practice of HRJ. HRJ was developed for the global context. However, according to findings mostly drawn from the interviews with Chinese and foreign journalists, there are obstacles such as press censorship, the focus on the ideology of social order over liberalism, and the lack of public interest in the liberal interpretation of human rights that stand in the way of HRJ practise in China. This Chinese context was not captured in earlier studies on HRJ by Shaw (2012) and on Krumbein (2014)’s study on human rights in China, and is therefore seen as a major contribution of this thesis to the knowledge of human rights reporting in the world.

Finally, according the survey and interview findings, the Chinese public and elite have a negative perception of the topic of human rights because they only see it in the Western lens of individual rights, and not their own preferred lens of group rights. Due to such negative perception, the unwillingness to talk and discuss ‘human rights’ is strong. This causes obstacle not only for both the Chinese and the foreign journalists to access the views on human rights from the Chinese public, but also deepen the cultural miscommunication on human rights between the Chinese public and elites on one hand, and the Western journalists on the other. This findings further extends Shaw’s (2012b) study on the nexus between cultural miscommunication and human wrongs journalism from a Muslim and Islamic context into the Chinese cultural context. Different from the stereotypical issue that is closely related to culture and civilisation in Shaw’s study, this PhD shows that the clash of cultures could also be encountered when the perception of human rights is negative. Eventually, this causes constraint on the practice of HRJ in the context of China.

Overall, this study is a unique contribution, both theoretically and empirically, to the understanding of HRJ globally, and in the context of China, in particular with the consideration of social-political constraints, as well as a mounting challenge on the implementation of the practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L300 Sociology
P500 Journalism
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2018 08:44
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2022 14:45
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/36298

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