On January 5, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported on the annual meeting of the media propaganda ministers. A few weeks later, China Media Project editor David Bandurski wrote on the project’s website about the significance of the fact that a known hardliner had presided over the meeting. Bandurski also provided an English-language version of the ministers’ 10-points bulletin with new restrictive regulations from the Central Propaganda Department. The source was Cao Guoxing, a Shanghai-based reporter for the Chinese-language Radio France International, which had published the bulletin. Posting the translated bulletin, Bandurski explained: “We have not yet confirmed this list with our own sources, but we have learned independently about a number of the orders listed in the bulletin, which supports its authenticity.
“Chinese Journalists Circumvent Government’s Tight Restrictions”
– Ying ChanJournalists Ying Chan and Qian Gang established the China Media Project in 2003 as a place to document the process of media reform and provide open and active discussion of reform-related issues. The website is a collaborative effort involving the students and faculty at the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong where they both teach. Ying Chan is the center’s founder.
What follows is the 10-points bulletin, as reported by Cao Guoxing.
- Create a favorable public opinion climate for the two holidays [including Spring Festival] and “two meetings” (NPC and CPPCC). Do a conscientious job of channeling [public opinion] on such hot topics as income distribution, the stock market and property market, employment and social security, education and public health and sanitation, and safe manufacturing, explaining the issues and dissolving tensions.
- Strictly control reporting of disasters, accidents and extreme events, and extra-territorial reporting and monitoring is not permitted for these types of stories. For major disaster and accident reports the central news media will report on developments. No [live] reporting [via reporters from other local media on the scene] or direct broadcasting [of such stories] is permitted. [Events in which] less than 10 people die, central media will not issue reports. These are to be reported by local media, and media outside the area where the incident occurs are not to carry out extra-territorial reporting. For general accidents not reported by central media, local media can carry out a reasonable degree of reporting, and media outside the area may not do their own reporting.
- Reports on demolition and removal [of residents to make way for development projects] must be “grasped safely and reliably,” and [media] “must not cast doubt on” normal demolitions and removals done according to laws and regulations. No public opinion support must be given to exorbitant [property] prices, and no reports must be made of “suicides, self-immolations or public incidents” occurring in the course of violent demolitions and removals. Extreme isolated cases must not be built up [with reporting and editorial treatment], and concentrated or serial reporting cannot be done [for such cases].
- The Central Propaganda Department orders that various regional online news portals and commercial websites must not without exception hold various national-scale selections of [top influential] news stories or [top influential] news journalists. An awards event held for eight years by Guangzhou’s Southern Weekend has been stopped as a direct result of this order.
- In the case of reporting of regular mass incidents , central media and media outside the region where the event occurs will not report such incidents, and “management” of metro city newspapers must be strengthened. In the case of mass incidents the pointing of blame at the Party and government must be prevented.
- The Central Propaganda Department orders that [in reporting of] cases of anti-corruption, the trend of “vulgarization” must be stopped. Content may not discuss, debate or question on the issue of political reform , the term “civil society” may not be used, and standing on the opposite side of the government is “strictly prohibited.” The use of media opinions to “replace and interfere with” the opinions of the masses is not permitted.
- A fully adequate job must be done of carrying out public opinion channeling concerning the property market. Questionnaires on high property prices and online surveys must not be done. [Media] must not speculate about property price trends on the basis of changes in “any given time and place” , and they must not build up extreme examples.
- No reports whatsoever are permitted on exchange of hukou [or “household registration”] by [residents of] the residential areas of collectively-held villages [in urban areas or urban fringes], or concerning the exchange of contracted land for social insurance. No reports are permitted concerning questions being internally discussed or of research essays by experts or scholars [on these and related issues].
- Reports on the [annual] Spring Festival migration must be positive. Do not report on problems existing during the Spring Festival, such as “hard-to-get tickets.”
- The document, “Opinions Concerning the Further Strengthening and Improvement of News Reports on Criminal Cases,” sent down recently by the Central Propaganda Department and the Political and Judiciary Commission , divides [criminal] cases into “significantly grievous” , “grievous” , “routine” and “special” , and makes a clear demand on how cases at various levels are to be reported and grasped [in terms of guidance, or control]. [These stipulations] deal with the problem among metro city newspapers of reports being “too frequent and too careless.”
“Investigative Reporting in China: Progress, Setbacks and Surprises”