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“Will the Terrible Price We Paid Buy Us Press Freedom?”

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February 17, 2020

The Peking University professor and advocate of judicial reform in China says in this handwritten short essay, “Without press freedom, not only would the people’s livelihood be difficult, there would be no trust in government, let alone the possibility of a capable modern governance system.”


贺卫方:惨重的代价能否换来新闻自由?

庚子年,短短的一个春节,九省通衢的武汉市就由一个繁华大都会迅速变成一座人间地狱。一场突如其来的冠状病毒袭击,转瞬间已导致近两千人命丧黄泉,有些家庭甚至满门尽亡。宣布的死亡数字是官方统计,可以肯定,尚有很多没赶上确诊就已经死去者不在其中。此外,武汉率先封城,接着是温州、杭州,各大城市也紧急跟进,差不多全国范围都进入了紧急状态。

与此同时,这恐怖的病毒又借着喷气式飞机以及豪华邮轮传播到世界各个角落。举世惊慌之下,各国纷纷采取紧急措施,航空中止,入境禁止,一时间仿佛又回到了从前闭关锁国的时代。

迄今为止,造成这惨状的原因尚有许多谜团。最重要的,病毒来自何处,是自然原因,还是某种事故,仍然是一头雾水,不得其解。不过,可以确定的是,从最早发现感染者的2019年12月初,一直到2020年的1月20日疫情公开,近两个月的时间里,包括武汉市绝大多数市民在内,人们都在浑然不察之中,走亲访友,杯盏交错;外出旅行,呼朋引伴。官媒莺歌燕舞,两会歌功颂德……一片升平之下,那致死的病毒悄然传入千家万户。

当然,一线的医生护士们感知得到。他们不断地将这危急信息向省市政府尤其是卫健委报告,甚至通过内参通道报告中央。但是泣血陈情却无法唤醒沉睡的官僚体制,包括官僚化的专家们。他们信誓旦旦地告诉国民:疫情可防可控,未见人际传播。

面对公众的怒火和举世的焦虑,最高领导人想亲自出面澄清某些怀疑。2月15日,《求是》杂志发表习近平2月3日在中共政治局常委会上的讲话,其中强调他如何不断地作出指示和批示,部署指挥动员抗击疫情。在时间节点上,他最早发出指示是在1月7日,1月20日作出批示,1月22日又发出“明确要求”,庚子年正月初一即1月25日再召集政治局常委会对抗击疫情“再研究、再部署、再动员”,并决定成立中央应对疫情领导小组。

我们姑且不说1月7日已经是疫情爆发一个月之后,也难以了解部署、动员的内容究竟如何,一个令人震惊的事实是:1月7日讲话涉及武汉疫情的内容似乎被官媒作了“留中不发”的处理,外界根本无从知晓。讲话者是否知道他遭到了“屏蔽”,抑或讲的内容不适合让公众知道?假如最高领导人的讲话也遭到封锁,那“两个维护”岂非笑话?说到底,根子上在于无自由。如果武汉、湖北的报纸、电视可以就疫情进行自由而负责任的报道,何至于要依赖这相互诿责的官僚体系?何至于武汉以及全国要这么多的人受感染、遭噩运?!

唉,不多说了。但愿这惨痛的代价能够让手握权柄者醒悟:没有新闻自由,就不仅民生多难,而且政府亦无信,更谈不上现代化的治理能力与体系。

2020年2月17日宅中

 

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