By Jeremaiah Opiniano in Paris
Journalism that usually fits into democracies will go to China in 2022 when the economic and political giant hosts a triennial global congress of journalism educators.
Journalism schools from Beijing and Shanghai will co-host the Sixth World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC), which has just held its fifth congress in Paris, France, this week.
The China-based WJEC, selected with a hint of controversy this week, will be held on July 8-13, 2022.
Associate Professor Verica Rupar, the newly-elected chair of the World Journalism Education Council (WJEC), declared the winning Chinese bid at the close of the fifth edition of the congress – with ease and with a smile.
“Many thanks to the council for [voting us], including the good questions and comments,” replied Dr Guo Ke of Shanghai International Studies University, dean of SISU’s journalism and communication school. He will be the head co-organiser of the event together.
Professor Gao Xiaohong of the Communication University of China (CUC) will be co-organiser.
“The Chinese journalism educators’ circle is willing to interact with others,” she told the fifth congress’ assembly.
The fifth WJEC was held July 9-11 at Université Paris-Dauphine, just outside of downtown Paris.
Host cities unclear
Come 2022, it is still unclear if the congress will be in either or in both Shanghai and/or Beijing.
Prior to the announcement of Dr Rupar, of Auckland University of Technology (AUT), the bid document of China was quietly circulated and some educators were surprised about it.
And during the early moments of the closing ceremony – with the winning bidder yet to be announced – a Powerpoint slide was inadvertently shown at the left side of the main venue.
That slide revealed the theme of China’s WJEC, “Change and continuity: Journalism education in the digital era”.
At the end of Guo’s remarks, a slide showed Chinese characters symbolising fireworks, which are the Chinese characters of Beijing and Shanghai.
Polite claps from an audience of around 200 followed, although some educators were keen to stay still and look at the next person beside them with raised eyebrows.
The Chinese bid was chosen by WJEC – the council – during a bid presentation held on July 8.
The triennial congress features teaching methods and journalism issues that practitioners, academics and researchers discuss.
Presentations and papers reveal facets of journalism methods, tools and issues that happen in full and emerging democracies, such as fake news and news audiences hostile at news reportage.
Those were the sessions that some 13 journalism professors and students from mainland China listened to. (Only two mainland Chinese professors made paper presentations.)
The People’s Republic of China is one of the worst countries in the world in terms of having a controlled press, as well as blocking popular websites and social media platforms that users from the rest of the world access.
China is ranked 177th in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF).
“Is this hosting of the 2022 WJEC their [China’s] way of deodorising the absence of press freedom in their country?” asked an Asian attendee in Paris who may skip the event.
However, some congress attendees minced no words in saying the would go to China.
“Yes, I will go,” said a communication professor from northern Africa, because, she argued, “I am curious to discover the country and its journalism”.
Her compatriot, a media researcher, agreed: “I love Chinese food and I previously learned Mandarin there.”
The congress had previously been held in Singapore (2007), South Africa (2010), Belgium (2013) and New Zealand (2016). WJEC serves to bring educators together to improve journalism training and instruction worldwide.
An African delegate remarked that he was “not afraid” of observations on the suppression of free speech when the congress goes to China.
“China has nothing to do with scholars going there to talk about journalism.”
Play it cool
A delegate from the Oceania region wanted would-be attendees to play cool.
“Yes I will go amid the observations on China,” he said.
And understanding the nature of these triennial congresses, he said China “must not be isolated.
“Bring them into the discussion, and yet we will ask the hard questions,” he said.
“Don’t leave the enemy alone.”
- Jeremaiah Opiniano is a journalism academic of the University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university in the Philippines with the longest established journalism programme. He is a contributor to Asia Pacific Report.
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