Edwin Maher, an Australian weatherman who was working for ABC over 20 years, suddenly disappeared from the screen and joined China Central TV Channel 9 in 2003. He is the first foreign reporter who read the news for Chinese audience, which has induced a lot of taunts and reproaching from western media. Some critics viciously described him as “News Betrayer” andVoice of CCP”. Los Angeles Times recently published a long article about Maher. He indicated that he is very angry as to the unreasonable assaults from western media and will be unperturbed towards those attacks and jibes. He said to the reporter: “I don’t really care.”

Last week, Maher had been awarded the Friendship Medal by China Central TV.

Nonetheless, as you’ll see in the Times article, not everyone thinks Edwin is doing the right thing by parroting the government’s propaganda on international television.

“It sounds like an effort to lend a whiff of Western-style credibility to their news operations, in a superficial way, without having to actually adhere to high standards such as fairness, independence, balance, public service and accuracy,” said Neil Henry, a UC Berkeley School of Journalism professor.

But a propagandist is a propagandist, no matter what one’s race or country of origin.”

Maher hears from his critics — from irate e-mail writers to the foreigners he meets. “One writer said there was no excuse for what I was doing. And Westerners on the street will ask how I feel about being a mouthpiece for the Chinese government.”

He’s unapologetic. He calls his CCTV anchor job the biggest break of a career that has spanned decades in Australia and his native New Zealand.

Maher has some room for adlibbing with sports reporters, but the weather forecasters operate from a different building and read from a script. The news reports are written by Chinese journalists and polished by foreign copy editors. Maher usually presents the news on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, fronting five 30-minute bulletins a day.

As for media control in China, Maher says to The Australian that the scene is changing and reporters are steadily covering new ground: for instance, 18 months ago Channel 9 ran a series of “pretty hard investigative stories” on an AIDS epidemic.

But you can’t change the fact that this is the national broadcaster,” he says. “I just accept it as a fact of life.”

 

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