Chinese Regime Apparently Tightened Control Over News Media

By Qi Zhifeng, Voice of America
May 27, 2008 12:00 am Last Updated: May 27, 2008 12:00 am

WASHINGTON—According to the latest news from China, the Chinese regime apparently tightened its control over news media one more time. The relative “news freedom” one week after the big quake in Sichuan Province has obviously ended. Meanwhile, some critics comment that the regime is still holding onto control over news media and speech. This is neither beneficial to rescue work after the quake, nor to China's longer-term development.

On May 12, the same day of the big quake in Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province, the head of propaganda and news media under the Chinese communist regime ordered that the Chinese news media need to treat reports on the quake and rescue work as a political task, it needs to publicize the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). News from China said various big news agencies in China also received guidance: Do not continue to send correspondents to Sichuan.

However, owing to their professionalism, many reporters from local media companies in China went to the front lines of the quake areas to report live. Because of this, the Chinese people were able to obtain many true stories from the disaster areas.

Parents at the Quake Area Protested Against the 'Tofu-Style' Construction Not Being Disclosed by Media

On Tuesday, the Chinese public and overseas media all noted that the Chinese regime apparently re-tightened its control over reporting the news in China. Juyuan Middle School, Dujiangyan City, which suffered from severe casualties, resumed school on Tuesday. Several hundred parents who lost their children in the earthquake, owing to the collapse of the school building, held a protest, strongly demanding to punish those responsible for building and approving low-quality construction, which caused the death of a large number of students in the quake. Australian Radio noticed that CCTV did not report anything about those parents on protest.

Tuesday was the second of three days set in China to mourn those who lost their lives in the quake. AP and The New York Times sent out reports from China; coincidentally, both pointed out that the Chinese regime has tightened control over news media. Cai Yimei, the executive editor of Hong Kong Open Magazine, expressed that the relative freedom enjoyed by the Chinese media in the past week doesn't show the Chinese communist regime giving up control; it was only not in control temporarily.

She commented, “The Chinese communism actually has never relaxed control, including this year's snow disaster and this earthquake.”

Reports of School Collapse Cut Dramatically

Observers said Li Changchun, the top official who is in charge of the CCP's propaganda machine, went to two of China's major state-run news agencies last week to “soothe the news workers who are involved in the quake relief reporting.” Since then, the CCP's media has dramatically decreased the number of reports on the schools collapsing, in which corrupt officials might have been bribed to approve the use of under-standard school buildings.

Tian Qizhuang, an Internet writer, who is also a critic, said official media still follow the CCP's main theme set by its propaganda departments, though they had shown certain freedoms last week. The so-called positive and cheery news was emphasized, but many concerns were avoided. “For example, some people question the lack of transparency in the Red Cross's money spending, but the media did not cover this story. For those concerns common people have, the media always reports the good side and avoids the bad side. This practice will jeopardize the quake relief work if you don't want to make a good use of resources in society.”

Chinese media reported that Li Changchun clearly requested the media to extol the Party and the authorities. He said, “The propaganda front should broadly and deeply report the earthquake relief strategy of the Central Committee of the CCP and State Council, the progress of the quake relief, and the detailed measures taken by various levels of Party Committees and authorities to settle down the victims.”