Culture strongly affects our takes on issues. Our biases, at least partly, are influenced by our experience. We all have our own biases and that are not usually bad. In a free society, competition of ideas flourishes and that competition necessarily includes biases. What makes biases unacceptable however is when it involves coercion.

All of us are entitled to our opinion, be it contemporary, forward looking or ones that truly belong to the dark ages. Where liberty reigns, individuals are free to express their thoughts.

Just like individuals, institutions have biases of their own and so too the media. Despite the fact the ethics of journalism calls for neutrality in reporting, I am not overly concerned with biases promoted by the media, regardless of its political sympathies. After all, these media themselves are run by individuals whom they themselves maintain their own biases. While I do appreciate objectivity in reporting, there is really no way to fully enforce such ethical demand without applying coercion. Furthermore, pursue of neutrality itself maybe subjective.

In the end, it is up to our mental faculty to decipher an event and wade through any bias that might cloud the objectivity of the news.

Biases usually worry me when there is coercion involved. For instance, when a supposedly impartial arbiter or judges whom have coercive power exhibits bias. Or when the media are controlled by the state which has censor power. Monopoly of information is bad enough in spite of still being within voluntary sphere but biases backed with threats go beyond monopoly.

The accusation thrown at western media — read non-pro-PRC media — by the People’s Republic of China is a suitable example where biases are backed by threat.

The recent unrest in Tibet has put the PRC in a unfavorable spotlight. With international media seemingly sympathetic to the Tibetan cause, coupled PRC’s atrocious record in violation of liberty as background and the upcoming Beijing Olympics, the call for free Tibet has grown considerably stronger than it has in recent past. Apart from calls for partial or full boycott, the Olympic Torch Relay has seen protest in various cities.

The PRC is noticeably annoyed and has taken swiped at international media that contributed to stronger support for Tibetan independence, calling them biased. Regardless of the beef of the accusation, the PRC made it as if only those media are biased whereas media controlled by the ruling communist party in PRC are biased themselves.

The hypocrisy of the PRC notwithstanding, I am unperturbed with biases exemplify by any side. What concerns me is the status of media within the PRC. In fact, because of the lack of free press in the PRC, I find it is easy to ignore the PRC’s claim. If the PRC is honest about its accusation of bias, then the PRC government must refrain from controlling the media by virtue of having exclusive access to legal — in descriptive terms — coercion. It must stop enforcing its biases over the media.

Between biases under a situation of unfree press, it is free press, or the perception of free press that will appeal to a third person. A free press does a better job at influencing others than controlled press. This is true in Malaysia where alternative media gained credibility for being free, among other things, at the expense of controlled mainstream media in the last general election.

When the press are controlled, the nagging question is why is it so? Is the state hiding something? This suspicion only attracts criticism and sows distrust against the state. But states like China and Malaysia could comfortably shove the question asides with clear conscience if free press is practiced.

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