Chinese authorities are making a push to censor netizens who publish ‘sensitive’ content.
Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang have frozen the microblogging accounts of an independent journalist and prominent blogger because he published “uncivilized” content on them.
Hangzhou-based veteran journalist and blogger Zan Aizong said his accounts on the popular Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo services had been deleted over the weekend.
“I think Sina probably has an internal list of names of people who publish ‘sensitive’ information,” Zan said in an interview this week.
Zan said he had already migrated several times across different accounts after he published links, comments, and articles on the 2010 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
“If they close one account down, then I guess I’ll just open another,” Zan said.
“They haven’t given me a standard to keep to,” he added. “They just told me that the account was closed because it published sensitive information.”
The company message to Zan read: “Following inquiries, Sina is unable to carry such sensitive information, and suggests that you use other channels to publish this information.”
“Your microblog service cannot be resumed. Apologies!”
Zan said recent posts of his had touched on the topic of the millions of Chinese who died in the famines of the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961).
Recent posts had also criticised the powerful central propaganda department for its controls over Internet content, he said.
Perhaps this was the “uncivilized” information the authorities were referring to, he speculated.
Zan said his microblog accounts had attracted around 5,000 followers before they were closed.
“These standards aren’t set by Sina, but by the government departments that oversee it,” Zan said. “It’s the government that ordered Sina to carry out this act of ill will.”
According to retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang, the Chinese government has been at pains in recent months to bring online content in line with the tight controls exerted over state-run traditional media.
“This is how it is on the Internet,” Sun said. “They must control it.”
“China’s propaganda department now exerts tight controls over all forms of media.”
Strict new rules
China’s censors have issued strict new rules to journalists in state-run media, warning that those who report information the government deems “inaccurate” could lose their press cards or face jail.
Analysts say the rules are also aimed at ordinary Chinese who use the Internet to publish news that official media are forbidden to report.
China’s print media monitor, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), published the rules on its website earlier this month, saying the new regulations aim to boost the credibility of Chinese news organizations.
With immediate effect, reporters and news organizations are banned from reporting any online information if it has not been independently verified.
However, the rules on the GAPP official website did not define what reports the government would regard as objectionable.
The government has recently launched a campaign against what it calls “rumor-mongering” on the Internet, and the regulations banning “fabricated” news stories appear to be an extension of this.
The move comes after top Communist Party officials held a meeting with top Internet, telecommunications, and technology executives this month, calling on them to develop what they called a “healthy Internet culture,” according to official media reports.
China’s government has maintained its stranglehold on the media in spite of attempts by a growing number of investigative reporters to expose corruption and health and safety scandals.
Last month, it detained some netizens briefly and issued warnings to others who posted sensitive or undesirable information on websites and microblogs, official media reported.
The 2010 survey of global press freedom carried out by the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked China 171st out of 178 countries and territories for journalistic autonomy.
Reported by Gao Shan for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
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