China Tightens Media Grip
Image Credit: Fang Guo

China Tightens Media Grip


China is tightening its rules on reporting, insisting that media outlets don’t report on stories that appear in social media until they’ve been verified. The move comes as the Communist Party continues a wide-ranging crackdown on dissidents and sources of information critical of the government.

According to a statement posted by the General Administration of Press and Publications, “Unverified reports are on an upward trend, and to a certain extent that has undermined the government's image, disrupted the information order, reduced the credibility of the media and brought a strong social response,” AP noted.

The government has found it increasingly difficult to control information with the rapid growth in popularity of so-called microblogs. In July, for example, rumors were quick to spread on social media over the true seriousness of a deadly train collision that claimed dozens of lives. In addition to speculation that the death toll might have been much higher than officials reported, news quickly circulated around blogs of one of the train carriages involved in the wreck being buried, just hours after the crash.

“Netizens argued that it was buried to destroy evidence – and some seem to believe that it contained bodies in order to reduce the official death count,” The Diplomat’s David Cohen reported at the time. “So far, official responses that it was done to safeguard Chinese technical secrets have persuaded few.  An informal poll on the Sina microblog service has found that less than 2 percent of about 63,000 respondents credited official explanations.”

As AP notes, the rules bar journalists and media outlets from reporting information taken from the Internet or cell phones without firsthand verification. “Violators may be barred from working in media for five years, and serious infractions may lead to criminal charges,” it adds.

On the surface, such rules seem similar to those in many other, democratic nations. However, they mark a potentially significant departure for China, and critics wonder both about the timing and also the potential application of such rules at a time when dissidents are being detained or threatened.

“These restrictions are more evidence that the Party feels they have lost or are losing control of the propaganda environment, and are starting to panic about it,” says Kelley Currie, a China specialist with Washington-based Project 2049. “They have good reason to be, with Weibo and the proliferation of smart phones proving to be a powerful combination that allows people to instantly share video of and commentary on everything from an ‘urban management’ thug beating up a street vendor to exposes of restaurants using ‘gutter oil.’”

But Kelley argues that such a reflexive response on the part of the government to the challenge posed by social media is both dated and, perhaps, ultimately futile.

“It’s one of those vestiges of Marxist thinking in the Party that still exerts a powerful hold. In part because of the market reforms the Party introduced to save its own skin 30 years ago, Chinese society is democratizing the sources of information available about every topic of interest to the Chinese people, and we are seeing the state reach the effective limits of its ability to manage the situation,” she says.

“The natural response of the party state in this situation is to try to force its way back into control. The question is whether they can do that under the present circumstances, which are so altered from previous situations. I think it’s an open question, and tend to lean on the side of freedom seeking behavior as winning out in the end.”

Frankie Fook-lun Leung
January 27, 2012 at 03:31

The Human Rights Watch in New York sent a letter to President Obama complaining about the deterioration of human rights in China. It tried to ask Obama to raise those issues when Obama met Xi Jeping in Washington DC.

Frankie Fook-lun Leung
January 21, 2012 at 14:56

Ambassador Gary Locke told the press that the human rights conditions in china have deteriorated. Author Yu Jie exiled to USA and held a press conference that he was beaten by the security bureau staff in China and had no choice except to leave the country to regain freedom. Chin demanded microbloggers to register. All these reports indicated that China is making life difficult for people to express views without government contral and censorship.

Frankie Fook-lun Leung
November 17, 2011 at 12:43

what the Chinese Government seems unable to realize is that the tighter the control the media, the less trust the people have on what the official media tells them. In fact, the government underestimate the intelligence of its people and their desire to know the truth, whether it be natural disasters, fake medicines, governmental malpractices or grievances in other parts of the country. The government use the excuse that rumor spread in the unofficial media. Yet the people know from their own experiences the government also use propaganda or distorted reporting to mislead them.

lung sha shou
November 16, 2011 at 19:35

Tightens Media Grip??

I don’t understand China’s Consitution states

Article 35 of the 1982 State Constitution proclaims that . . .

“Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly,

Article 36. of the 1982 State Constitution proclaims that . . .

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities.”

Article 37. of the 1982 State Constitution proclaims that . . .
The freedom of person of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable. No citizen may be arrested except with the approval or by decision of a people’s procuratorate or by decision of a people’s court, and arrests must be made by a public security organ. Unlawful deprivation or restriction of citizens’ freedom of person by detention or other means is prohibited; and unlawful search of the person of citizens is prohibited.

Article 38. of the 1982 State Constitution proclaims that . . .
“The personal dignity of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable. Insult, libel, false charge or frame-up directed against citizens by any means is prohibited.”

Major Lowen Gil Marquez, Phil Army
November 15, 2011 at 10:31

Thru the modern communication technology which owned by every human being will lead to a more social dimension networking which a person were created as a social being which is free to communicate to each other around the universe to served its different purpose for the interest of One going to Everybody, why some Marxist Ideology wanted to grip the freedom of expressions, communist thoughts is a hallowed and obsolete personal ideology already, why be afraid of communication technology even in its advance states if such a certain states were nothing to hide for? we are created by God as free human being , to be fair a freedom must have also a responsibility which take care also the freedom of the whole also, we are not created by the psychotic and chaotic communist thoughts created by the very human being only. . . I freedom is protected then there will be a peace in the entire universe created by the Divine
Providence. .

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