The image of government officials may have fallen to a new low following the recent sex video scandal in Chongqing and the exposure of a bank official in Shaanxi Province who owns at least 41 properties in Beijing.
In a society that still has heavy government involvement, the loss of authority and credibility for the government will drain the effectiveness of governance and dissolve national solidarity.
However, the attempt to hold back the deteriorating image of officials cannot be based on limiting public scrutiny. Scandals like those in Chongqing and Shaanxi must be exposed by the media.
The large-scale media coverage sent shock waves to corrupt officials, and no other measures can replace the direct and potential effect of media exposure.
Improvements to the image of officials can only be based on real changes, not any attempt to use the media to do a makeover or coverup.
On the other hand, the real situation of the majority of Chinese officials needs a realistic assessment.
Looking around, we have to admit that police officers have been getting friendlier, the government has become more transparent and fairer opportunities have been provided for those who want to become civil servants.
The continuing exposure of corrupt officials has made the risks greater for corrupt officials. Being an official is no longer an easy job and officials have to watch their every move more carefully.
The increase in corruption scandals does not necessarily mean more officials have been abusing their power. Chinese media are now freer than before to expose corruption scandals, along with the top authorities' determination to crack down harder on corruption.
The more cases are reported, the less likely officials are to cross red lines.
Therefore, the media should not only strengthen their efforts to expose corruption, but also inform the public about improvements in the country's general situation. If coverage is not balanced, the focus on scandals will become a race to sensationalism which fails to show a full picture of the whole country.
Of course, it is not fair to hold only the media accountable for a just presentation of the image of officials. Officials have to do a good job in the first place, which may naturally attract the media. There will be no positive return if officials attempt to order the media to report or not to report something.
The image of officials is not just related to the interests of officials. It is part of the country's general strength and social management capability, which will affect the common interest of the whole nation.
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