China has seen a huge surge in cyber-censorship in the recent years since current president Xi Jinping took office in 2012, of which he rules on the platform of heightened control of his people under the pretense of “allegiance to the Communist Party”.
This notion of invasive surveillance being in the name of “nationalism” and “loyalty” is totally bogus, of course. But that didn’t stop President Xi from acting – yet again.
Another crackdown on the freedoms (or lack-of, really) of journalists – this time specifically targeting political and social news reporting – occurred Monday when the Chinese government shut down several online news outlets.
Local media reported that news services run by some of China’s largest online portals, including Sina, Sohu, NetEase, and iFeng, were shut down for publishing independent reports rather than official statements.
Most Chinese news organizations are barred from gathering or reporting on political or social issues themselves. Instead, they are forced to use only the information given to them by state-run news agencies and media outlets, such as Xinhua.
However, many agencies had hired investigative journalists to write their own reports, uninfluenced and unaltered by the government, to attract more readers and revenue. I’d like to think it was also a command – however unintended – for freedom of press and thought.
According to Chinese officials, the sites had seriously violated those reporting rules.
State-run newspapers Beijing Daily and The Beijing News reported that numerous online columns, including Sina’s News Geek, Sohu’s Click Today, and NetEase’s Signpost, have all been closed, along with related social media accounts.
The columns had “published large amounts of independently-gathered news reports, in serious violation of the rules”, and could also face fines, the papers said.
As an act of insurance and display of power, President Xi visited state media outlets back in February, demanding journalists pledge their absolute loyalty to the Communist Party.
How would it play out if “devoted” Chinese citizens were exposed to the unbiased, un-manipulated, and untouched-by-Party-propaganda true news? There was no chance to find out, because, well, Beijing couldn’t have that happening.