Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns the draconian directive that China’s media regulator –¬ the General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television – issued yesterday banning the Chinese media from using unauthorized information from foreign media and websites.
“This directive marks a new stage in the reinforcement of censorship, which has been increasing steadily since the Communist Party’s 18th Congress last November,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The censors have had the foreign media in their sights ever since they published embarrassing revelations about China’s leaders. The regime is trying to prevent the Chinese media from repeating such revelations.
“The initiative seems bound to fail in the era of Weibo and social networks, where information and revelations from the foreign media circulate like wildfire. But it could be used to justify new acts of censorship and could therefore have an impact on the Chinese media, which often quote international news agency reports in particular.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “The international media continue to play a key role both in informing the international community about what is happening in China, and in informing the Chinese public, which is the victim of the government’s growing censorship of the local media.”
According to the directive, “all kinds of media work units may not use any unauthorized news products provided by the foreign media or foreign websites.” They are also forbidden to use information provided by “news informants, freelancers, NGOs or commercial organisations” without “prior verification.”
A report on the directive published yesterday by China Press and Publishing Journal, an offshoot of the media regulator, urged the media to “strengthen the management” of their websites, blogs and micro-blogs, both professional and private.
The directive was issued the same day that the New York Times was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its October 2012 exclusive on the fortune amassed by former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s family.
The newspaper’s revelations were censored in China and its journalists’ email accounts were the targets of cyber-attacks aimed at identifying their sources. The authorities also blocked searches for “Wen Jiabao” and “New York Times” on the micro-blogging site Sina Weibo.
The Bloomberg news agency’s website was blocked on 25 June 2012 after it ran a story about the fortune held by the family of Xi Jinping, who has since become president.
The BBC World Service announced on 25 February 2013 that the shortwave broadcasts of its English-language service had been jammed in China. At the same time, several foreign journalists including Melissa Chan and Chris Buckley have had problems obtaining visas.
China is ranked 173rd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Photo : Wang Zhen / XINHUA