China to Crack Down on ‘Vile Effect’ of Journalism

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) speaks to journalists in front of a Chinese national flag after a meeting with Japan's ambassador to China Masato Kitera (not seen), at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, December 26, 2013. China's Foreign Minister summoned Japan's ambassador to China on Thursday to …
REUTERS/China Daily

Citizens of China can rest easy, knowing that their authoritarian government has taken steps to protect them from the “vile effect” of independent journalism.

As the UK Guardian puts it, this bold crackdown on thoughtcrime involves Beijing forbidding big Internet portals like Netease, Sina, and Sohu from reporting on “social and political issues.”

From now on, all such reporting must come from government-controlled “news” services, with “enhanced” penalties awaiting the defiant.

To pave the way for this glorious new era of absolute government control over thought and expression, Chinese President Xi Jinping toured state media organizations in Beijing earlier this year, to guarantee their “absolute loyalty” and make it clear their job was to disseminate the Communist Party’s “policies and propositions.”

A few weeks ago, China’s chief Internet regulator was suddenly yanked from his post to replaced by a closer crony of President Xi.

Now it is time for Beijing to declare that independent journalists have “seriously violated regulations and had a completely vile effect” on the minds of citizens.

An analyst quoted by the Guardian speculated that China’s loss against the Philippines in an international court ruling on South China Sea territorial claims could be one of the reasons the Communists decided to take firmer control of news media, with more crackdown measures to come.

“The Cyberspace Administration has launched a nationwide crackdown on websites that spread ‘fake’ or ‘substandard’ news in recent months, handing out fines and reprimands to website owners whose content doesn’t comply with its rules,” Radio Free Asia reports. “Fake news” would appear to be the fashionable new death sentence against information the Communist Party can’t handle.

As a regulatory official explained to Radio Free Asia, independent journalism has been technically illegal for some time, but the government has decided to step up enforcement.

Opinions on whether China’s amped-up censorship will work are divided. It is a cherished belief of the digital generation that the Internet provides a wild frontier of information that no government can tame, but China and other authoritarian societies have been working hard to shatter that belief, with notable success.

“The flow of information cannot be stopped – it’s like a flood,” Chinese journalist Wen Tao optimistically declared to the Guardian.

“Eventually, they will succeed in eroding people’s critical faculties, and the general level of knowledge among the general public,” a pessimistic Beijing Internet user nicknamed “Wuti” predicted to Radio Free Asia.


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