The Beijing propaganda bureau has taken control of two city newspapers known for bold reporting.
Some journalists blamed the development on official anger at the reporting of the fatal high-speed train crash in Wenzhou in July, although others believe it reflects a broader struggle over control of the media.
It means there will be so much we can't do, an employee of one of the affected titles said. [Before] there was news that other papers couldn't do but we could.
Previously, the papers were overseen by state level propaganda authorities. Journalists fear the switch may also restrict their ability to cover events in the capital and sensitive news from other areas.
It's been a headache for the Beijing propaganda authorities that they didn't directly control the two newspapers, Wen Yunchao, a Hong Kong-based media analyst, told the South China Morning Post: They could only influence editorial
content through the help of the central publicity department.
China's press censors at the General Administration of Press and Publication have released new restrictions on journalism.
Some regulations simply reiterate journalistic best practices, others introduce new restrictions:
Reporters are required to be objective and report all sides of a story. They are prohibited from aggregating reports or relying on second-hand accounts that have not been independently verified, in particular information obtained from online
sources, outside contributors, or by phone. News organizations must set up systems to guard against the publication of false reports and strengthen responsibility at all levels and through every stage of the editorial process, including the
establishment of procedures to investigate errors and publish corrections and apologies.
The rules state that journalists should rely on in-person interviews, authoritative sources of information, and verifiable facts in their reporting. Critical news reports must be based on information from at least two different sources,
and journalists must retain evidence of the information that has been received and verified. The use of anonymous sources is discouraged, with limited exceptions for national security, privacy or other special reasons, and reporters are
cautioned against describing anonymous sources with phrases such as a person familiar with the matter, a person involved in the matter, or an authoritative person. Likewise, the use of pen names is barred, and reporters and
editors involved in a story must sign their real names to it.
Crucially, the rules also reiterate that reporters must be licensed by and warns news organizations against hiring reporters on a temporary basis, eg freelancers and temps.
Journalists at a leading Chinese newspaper have called for a chief newspaper censor to resign, in a rare protest against censorship.
Prominent former staff and interns at the Southern Weekly urged the official to quit after he changed an editorial into a Communist Party tribute. They accused him of being dictatorial in an era of growing openness .
The row at the Southern Weekly - known for hard-hitting investigations and testing the limits of censorship - erupted after a new year editorial calling for guaranteed constitutional rights was changed at the last minute to one extolling the
virtues of the Communist Party.
In two open letters, 35 prominent former staff and 50 interns at the paper have demanded the resignation of the provincial propaganda chief in Guangdong, Tuo Zhen.
BBCChinese.com editor Zhuang Chen says it is thought to be the first time there has been a direct showdown between newspaper staff and party officials.
The row comes as the website of another liberal journal was closed after it ran an essay urging political reform. The influential online magazine, Yanhuang Chunqiu (or China Through the Ages), had called on China's leaders to guarantee
constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and assembly.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of a southern newspaper on Monday in a rare display of public anger over China's draconian censorship regulations. Many held signs calling for greater press freedom and expressing
support for the newspaper's editorial employees, some of whom have gone on strike against the provincial propaganda authority's interference with a recent editorial.
Widely circulated pictures on microblogs show large groups of young people holding up handwritten anti-censorship messages and grappling with police.
This incident could mark the first time in more than two decades that the editorial staff of a major newspaper have openly staged a strike against government censorship, reported the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
Reports from China suggest journalists at a newspaper embroiled in a censorship row are returning to work after an agreement was reached.
Staff at Southern Weekly had demanded that a top censor and propaganda chief step down after a New Year message was changed.
On Tuesday, editorial propaganda from the state-run Global Times blamed the incident on activists outside the media industry was republished on multiple news sites - the result, according to reports, of a government directive. But several
major news portals carried a disclaimer saying they did not endorse the piece and a number of newspapers did not run it, in an apparent show of solidarity.
Reports citing sources both from the paper's staff and people close them said a deal to end the dispute was agreed on Tuesday evening. Thursday's edition would be published as normal and most staff would not be punished, Reuters reported.
However, online reports citing microblogs suggest the row may have widened to include a well-known daily, Beijing News.
Unconfirmed reports said its chief editor, Dai Zigeng, had resigned over pressure to publish the Global Times editorial.
China has sentenced three human rights activists to harsh prison terms for participating in an anti-censorship protest in 2013. The attorney for the three, Zhang Lei, told VOA that he is shocked and angered by the verdict, which gave a
sentence of six years to activist Guo Feixiong.
Activists Liu Yuandong and Sun Desheng were sentenced to three years and 2½ years, respectively, for participating in the same demonstration.
The three were charged with gathering crowds to disturb social order and Guo received the additional charge of picking quarrels and provoking trouble. Both charges are often used broadly against dissidents.
The protest they took part in was a weeklong peaceful demonstration in 2013 outside the headquarters of the Southern Weekly newspaper. The demonstrators called on Beijing to give up censorship practices that affected the paper.
Zhang said he will be filing appeals for all three of his clients.
The Blue Express Daily (Lan Se Kuai Bao) in Yantai city, Shandong province has been banned from publishing in the next three months because it was running supposedly vulgar content, according to its editors.
The daily, which started publishing on July 17 last year, employs more than 300 people and has a circulation of 60,000, said Editor-in-Chief Han Hao. Han said he would be negotiating with provincial publishing authorities to bring the paper back,
but he believed officials would have final say on the fate of the publication.
Han told the South China Morning Post that he believed a local competitor had gone to authorities and attacked the paper for running inappropriate pictures of pretty women, which Han said were celebrity photos that appeared in the entertainment
The paper published a front page letter for its final issue. Although the letter doesn't explain why the paper is being shut down, Qu Quancheng, a deputy editor at the daily, cited vulgar content as a major reason that has lead to the
censorship. Vulgar content , a made-up accusation, has taken down a newspaper, he wrote on Weibo. A new page in China's journalism and history has been turned.
The Chinese government has intensified its control over the country's news media since Xi Jinping became president in March last year, reports the Washington Post.
Its domestic journalists risk getting fired and even jailed for their work. Censorship has been stepped up. And new restrictions require them to seek permission before meeting foreign reporters and business people. Chinese journalism schools have
been told that a provincial propaganda official will be appointed in a senior management role at every institution.
In addition, Chinese reporters have been forced to attend ideological training meant to impart the 'Marxist view' of journalism and to pass a multiple-choice examination on their knowledge of the Communist Party's myriad slogans.
It seems that the Beijing government is alarmed about the growing impact of social media and the way in which critical stories can spread around in an instant. Xi, in a speech last August, said:
We have to make sure the front of the internet is firmly controlled by people who are loyal to Marxism, loyal to the party and loyal to the people.
China has introduced new rules to restrict journalism. The rules say that journalists and their news organizations are forbidden from initiating critical reporting that has not been approved.
The new rules also prohibit a host of other journalistic activities. Reporters may not do reporting across industries or focus areas . News outlets are forbidden from establishing businesses in advertising, publishing or public relations.
And they can't even circulate critical documents internally or on private websites. +
The government rules seem related to recent announcement that over 14,000 press cards had been revoked for supposedly bogus journalists. The measures also appear designed to address corruption scandals involving news outlets found to be
practicing black PR, obtaining profits through paid-for content.
The government had just announced that month that reporters were not allowed to report anything, even on their own blogs and social media sites , that had not been approved by an editor at their news organization. The announcement was aimed at
heading off enterprising--and increasingly frustrated--reporters who would often release directly to their own readers information that had not survived their publications' editing and censorship processes.
China has issued its first press credentials allowing reporters to post state approved 'news' stories on websites.
The state-run Xinhua 'news' agency reports that China granted its first press credentials to online media just last week, adding:
China previously banned most websites from reporting on news, only allowing them to edit and publish news from traditional media.
Online-media reporters are expected to actively expound socialist core values and amplify the mainstream voice in the Internet, making cyberspace 'clear and bright.
That may have been the law, but it was hardly true in practice. Online-only news portals like Sina and Sohu have been reporting news for years, let alone the numerous bloggers and citizen journalists throughout the country. In theory anyone
writing original news content, doing interviews, or publishing is technically breaking the law.
The first group of officially-credentialed agencies included the People's Daily, the government portal for Tibet, and Xinhua News Agency itself. So far, the only groups issued state permits to report are... state-run media agencies. No commercial
(i.e. not state-run) news portals have yet been issued online press credentials.
China's news censors ordered digital news media and other news outlets on the mainland to avoid excessive coverage of the US presidential election.
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), a source said Chinese censors had urged all media houses in the state to not provide any live coverage or broadcast of the poll -- the world's biggest news event of the day.
However, the media were reportedly asked not to miss out on any scandals during the vote and report them in a timely manner . The censors also allowed news media to criticise in depth political abuses in the election, said a source,
who did not want to be named because the instructions were confidential.
On December 23, Apple removed the Chinese versions of the newspaper's apps as well as their English counterparts in an act of compliance with a censorship order from the Chinese government.
An Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz issued this statement to TechCrunch:
For some time now the New York Times app has not been permitted to display content to most users in China and we have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations. As a result, the app must be taken down off the China App