Tuo Zhen had changed an editorial
of the paper into a Communist Party tribute. The staff members called Zhen "dictatorial" in an age of "growing openness"
Later, another group of 35 former reporters
at the newspaper went beyond this criticism and called for Zhen's resignation. In a letter, the group said that Zhen was personally responsible for the change in the editorial. They argued that a strong and credible news media was necessary for the welfare of the Chinese Communist Party:
“If the media should lose credibility and influence, then how can the ruling party make its voice heard or convince its people?”
This new criticism comes just as a the government closed down the website
of a liberal journal. Apparently, the site was shut down because it ran an article calling for political reform and constitutional government both topics generating material often censored by authorities. "Yanhuang Chungqiu" (China Through the Ages) is an influential Beijing-based magazine that often features articles from reformist officials who are retired.
On its official microblog Sina Weibo, the magazine reported that it had been informed that the site's registration had been cancelled. No reason was given. Attempts to reach the website, www.yhcqw.com
yield a cartoon of a policeman with a badge informing surfers that the site is closed. Ironically, the article that apparently caused offense, that took the form of a New Year's message, is still available on the magazine's microblog. It is comforting to know that the censors are not all that efficient!
Analysts say that this new censorship row will show how open to reforms the new leadership will be. A foreign ministry official said that China did not censor news. Note that the statement does not claim that China does not censor opinion! The state media have been trying to portray the new leaders as reform-minded even as they crack down on dissent.
Media in China are supervised by propaganda departments that often revise content to fit in with party policy. On the Internet the government uses what is called the "Great Firewall of China", to block access to content considered subversive or even pornographic. Some important authors, such as Mo Yan, have been accused of defending the censorship as shown in the appended video below.
Actually, some of what Mo Yan has to say is quite perceptive. He notes that all governments in effect censor the news, they simply differ in the degree to which they do so. While many governments do not directly control the news by censorship, Yan is right in that all governments attempt to manage news and control the effect of the media on citizens. Noam Chomsky's famous work on Manufacturing Consent shows this admirably.
With the new leadership in place, there has been more criticism of censorship. Famed Chinese movie director Xie Fei
charged that Chinese censorship is killing artistic exploration. No doubt any reform will be gradual possibly with many crackdowns. The government fears that allowing more critical voices will threaten party control of the country. Perhaps they will closely study western media to learn how to control without any heavy-handed obvious censorship.