Tiananmen Square in 1989 refers to the pro-democracy protests that took place against the communist regime in the People’s Republic of China between May and June 1989 (Gilboa 200). As has been the practice, flow of information in China is always limited. That is why the foreign media played a very significant role in Tiananmen Square; in fact up to today, the incident is referred to as the Tiananmen Square Massacre in most of the outside world while it is simply referred to as the June Fourth Incident (Gilboa 200).
Foreign media therefore played a big role in bringing the event out to the world; and this had many positive as well as negative impacts on the outcome of Tiananmen Square. There have been a lot of controversies surrounding Tiananmen Square. Even up to today, the number of people who died in the riots is still established. The impact of the media started being felt early on in April when after the death of reformist leader, Former Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang, University students from Beijing started putting up posters in his praise while advocating for freedom, democracy and the rule of law (Gilboa 200).
The Chinese communist regime was largely anti-reformist, and this political activism was not to be received in kind. Having strict media and information censorship policies, this event would not have captured the audience it did, thanks to foreign media (BBC, 2010). Foreign media thus fuelled the intensity of the riots and the resolution of the demonstrators. If it was not for the foreign media, the events that transpired during the Tiananmen Square riots would not have been known outside the borders of communist China (Fenby 2008).
But reporters from foreign media houses transmitted news feeds live from the scene and brought the cause of the demonstrators to the whole world. People, governments and human rights activists where then able to know how the situation was in China, and there was increased pressure on the communist regime ruling in China to grant its subjects the basic rights and freedoms (Gilboa 200). The brute force with which the government descended on the demonstrators even made the then president of the United States, George Bush, to halt any further trade in arms between the U. S and the People’s Republic of China.
Foreign media, being largely biased towards democracy and other western ideals, amplified the events occurring at Tiananmen Square and therefore gave the movements a lot of momentum (BBC 2010). Even when the government intervened with a brute force whose actual destruction of life is still not clearly established, the student protestors stayed put, buoyed by the support of the foreign media.
It can thus be said that foreign media played a role in the total number of fatalities that actually occurred as a result of the Tiananmen Square Riots of 1989 (Fenby, 2008). Through deliberate exaggeration, the foreign media reports working on the Tiananmen Square story fueled international tensions further. Many western nations including the United States and most of the countries in Western and Eastern Europe condemned how the Chinese government was approaching the Tiananmen Square riots and questioned its human rights records (Richelson, & Evans 1999).
Many other nations in North America, Latin America and Oceania also condemned the Chinese communist regime. India, which had been on a collision course with the people’s republic of China, advised her local media houses to censor the content streaming in from Beijing to prevent a possible escalation of tensions between the two countries (Gilboa 200). In fact, media exaggeration in some way altered the international political landscape. Citizens in communist countries became wary of what the communist juggernaut would do to them.
Elections were due to be held on the 4th of June in Poland, where the Polish Communist Party was in rule. This was just hours after the Tiananmen Square massacre but the polish public voted overwhelmingly in favor of leftist politicians, starting a process that would eventually remove the Polish Communist Party from power a year later. The United Nations and other human rights watchdogs had their attention attracted by foreign media coverage of what was actually happening in Tiananmen Square (Gilboa 200).
The then Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar, called on the Chinese government to practice maximum restraint while handling the rioters and hunger strikers on Tiananmen Square while the European Economic Community cancelled all high profile dealings with the Chinese in protest of the violation of human rights that was being orchestrated by the Chinese government on her citizens (Richelson, & Evans 1999). In conclusion, the effect of foreign media in covering the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 had more positive effects that negative effects.
The plight of the Chinese people was brought to the fore leading to increased concern and measures to force the Chinese government to respect rights and freedoms that are internationally recognized as being universal and unalienable to every person. However, much of the information broadcast by several media houses was inaccurate and this led to misunderstandings and tensions between the Chinese government and several other authorities.
Courtney from Study Moose
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