Posted by: kenwbudd | March 26, 2010

China Dictates: New Rules on Media Coverage and censorship

A new set of rules and instructions from the Chinese government itself suppresses and oppresses China media outlets from reporting almost anything about Google’s recent pull out from China.

The dictated instructions outline a series of rather disturbing edicts to media outlets that are attempting to cover the Google story. While this is nothing new, the Chinese government’s broad and suppressive mandates are particularly striking.

The next section includes not only the Chinese Government’s memo, but analysis of it;
China’s Message to Media: A Breakdown

China’s message is indented; the analysis is below each part. Important parts have been highlighted.

“To all chief editors and managers:

Google has officially announced its withdrawal from the China market. This is a high-impact incident. It has triggered netizens’ discussions which are not limited to a commercial level. Therefore please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period:”
Analysis: Clearly China is taking this incident very seriously. The government understands that Google’s move out of China could make its censorship methods more widely known among the Chinese populous and it could affect its relationships with other companies. They are not wrong.

Section A
“A News Section

1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources
2. Reposting must not change title
3. News recommendations should refer to Central government main media websites
4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting;
5. Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden!
6. Carefully manage the commentary posts under news items.”

Analysis: One of the government’s biggest tactics in controlling the media is controlling the source of news. By limiting news reporting only from a media source controlled by themselves, the government, it can control the message and the meaning of the message.

This same line of thinking also explains why it is openly and strongly discouraging investigative reporting, which is a key pillar of free speech and journalism in the western world.

Discussion, forums, and other online and offline mediums for expressing opinions are also being very strictly monitored and controlled, to ensure the message favours the Chinese government.


Section B


“B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:

1. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic
2. Interactive sections do not recommend this topic, do not place this topic and related comments at the top
3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.
4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy
5. On topics related to Google, carefully manage the information in exchanges, comments and other interactive sessions
6. Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.”

Analysis: Online media is being strongarmed as well. Don’t expect any forum topics, open-comment blog posts, or other interactive discussions on the China-Google standoff. The key to this section is that websites cannot have any media or stories that “have a different viewpoint or interpretation from government policy.”

The rows of flowers that Chinese citizens put in front of the Google logo sends the wrong message to its citizens, and China’s relying on the media to clean it up and tow the line.

“We ask the Monitoring and Control Group to immediately follow up on monitoring and control actions along the above directions; once any problems are discovered, please communicate with respected sessions in a timely manner.

Additional guidelines:

– Do not participate in and report Google’s information/press releases
– Do not report about Google exerting pressure on our country via people or events
– Related reports need to put our story/perspective/information in the centre, do not provide materials for Google to attack the relevant policies of our country
– Use talking points about Google withdrawing from China published by relevant departments”

Analysis: Overall, these guidelines are no surprise. The supression of free speech and diverse public opinion is how the Chinese government works. It’s a different culture from the West, with a different regime acting as a government, and along with that comes a very different set of rules.

In conclusion, it is clear that Google’s negotiations with the regime in China has put them under pressure, but it won’t be enough to break the censorship and oppresive chains that bind China’s Internet and nor should it.

This task should be in the hands of the Chinese people and in their development as a global nation, they should be able to decide on how, and by whom, they want their future to be shaped.


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