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CAIXIN, XINHUA, PEOPLE’S DAILY (China)

Worldcrunch

BEIJING – More than 4,000 aftershocks have been recorded since the earthquake that struck Sichuan Province, in the southwest of China, last Saturday.

The death keeps rising, with dozens still missing reports Xinhua. More than 11,470 people were injured in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake.

While the relief effort continues in Sichuan Province, with 22,000 Chinese troops deployed in the area, the disaster has sparked a debate on Chinese Internet about how the press should cover such news, reports Caixin media.

This young girl lost her grandfather in the earthquake in China twitter.com/McKenzieCNN/st…

— David McKenzie (@McKenzieCNN) April 25, 2013

Five years ago, when a massive earthquake struck Sichuan Province, killing more than 80,000 people, numerous photos of dead bodies were shown on television and in the newspapers. The media circus that descended on Sichuan was seen as many as highly insensitive, with journalists hounding the victims’ families and putting on a sensationalist show.

The number of reporters who rushed to the disaster site took up the time and energy of the local authorities, which had other – more important – things to do, obviously.

Xinhua reports on a Chinese student studying in Japan who wrote an article entitled How the Japanese media reported the 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, saying that Japanese reporters had stayed calm and “released sufficient information without violating privacy; provided data without being sensational; offered warnings without prompting panic."

According to Caixin media, although China is prone to disasters, its press seriously lacks experience in ethics. This is because of the lasting influence of the propaganda machine.

This time the reports on the Sichuan earthquake focused on rescue efforts and on heart-warming stories – but still avoided talking about important issues.

A frightened Panda in #China holds the leg of his caretaker after a massive earthquake #EarthPicstwitter.com/GoogleEarthPic…

— Google Earth Pics (@GoogleEarthPics) April 21, 2013

Many are happy, though, that the Chinese media is starting to show signs of maturity in the way it covers disasters.

The media is also changing the way it is reporting news. The People's Daily newspaper reports out that the Chinese television stations have adopted the foreign media’s practice of interrupting programming to provide updates on the earthquake. There is also a new phenomenon, a kind of “grassroots Internet journalism,” that has appeared on China’s micro-blogging sites, as well as on WeChat, a popular mobile phone text and voice messaging communication service. These new medias played an important role in the aftermath of the earthquake and during the rescue effort.

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