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South China Post Front Pages

May 25, 2008

The South China Post is quickly becoming one of my favourite newspapers. In North American papers, Asian political and natural disaster are treated with stagnant and singular viewpoints. News about one Asian country is confused with another, cause, you know, we all look the same, think the same and do the same things and sinophobia is awesomer than ever.

Much has already been said about the photographic censorship in North America, where newspapers do not show the caskets, much less the bodies of dead American soldiers. With the South China Post, I am seeing images of political and natural horrors to a degree of harshness I have never seen before in the Toronto Star or the Globe, both of which, at times, seem to reflect a world without blood.

The post-hurricane pictures of Myanmar showed the blacken corpses of animal and human victims. The human corpses appear to be frozen in a clawing gesture. Is this the natural state of rigor mortis or is this the look of drowning? Perhaps someone can answer me.

The photographs from the Sichuan earthquake are similarly gruesome. One front-page showed recovery workers removing the bodies of five or more dead children. The pictures show so much that you can see the crumpled little bodies with the red communist bandanas on their necks. The girls all had neat little pigtails and braids with scrutchies in girly colours – the sign of a mother’s care. Another picture showed a crushed victim with his hands – wedding band clear as day – sticking out of the concrete.

There is controversy over the picture of the crushed children. In the letter’s section, readers Anna-Carin Hart, Sandra Wyatt, Clive A. Gregory and Suey Lam all wrote in saying that they found the images gratuitous. Readers Chen Zhuoying and Guy Shirra commended the newspaper for its honesty. I don’t think that the trend in the names matter much. The newspaper is mostly read by foreigners and ex-patriots so it is absolutely more likely that a foreigner would voice his or her opinion. When I asked my cousins about such pictures, they were of the opinion that the newspapers chose such images to sell more papers, which can certainly be true.

I personally think these pictures are necessary as they remind the viewer of the lives and potential lost. The well-cared-for children started their day being groomed by their mothers who laboured over their little pigtails and hairclips, their bandanas, their outfits. A woman with a matching wedding band has now lost a husband. I find this sort of honesty refreshing. It’s funny that despite all the things we say about the importance of a free media, most of the images in Canadian media is censored, either by self-editorializing or by public opinion.

I will probably end up subscribing to the South China Post.

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