Communist Party propaganda chief Li Changchun attends a Children's Day party in Beijing, May 31. (Photo/Xinhua)
The head of the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda department has forbidden all media outlets from reporting "negative" news before the 18th National Congress, the once-in-a-decade leadership transition set to take place this fall, also prohibiting journalists from reporting incidents outside the regions in which they live without permission, according to an official statement released Friday.
Li Changchun — a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee and the party's propaganda chief — demanded that all news portals must, beginning June 15, to the greatest extent possible publicize the achievements of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao throughout their 10-year tenure. The overarching theme of the coverage is to be "golden decade, flourishing decade."
Province-level media outlets are not allowed to report negative news without specific instructions from the propaganda department, the statement said, and no journalists are allowed to report on incidents in other provinces. Provinces can report journalists breaking these rules to Beijing, leading to direct confiscation of their work permits. Journalists in Beijing, meanwhile, are not allowed to write stories covering issues they are not assigned to, according to the statement.
Newspaper editors have been confiscating work permits temporarily, journalists with Beijing newspapers China Industrial Economy News and the China United Business News reportedly told Boxun, a Chinese-language citizen journalism site that is sourced mostly by anonymous users and frequently makes claims that are difficult to prove. Permits can only be kept if journalists give reports to editors in advance. These reports must all be positive, as well, they said.
The two newspapers belong to the central government but take sole responsibility for their profits or losses.
A journalist at the independent-minded Southern Daily Group in Guangdong province said that the group's journalists are not allowed to report on events in other provinces. "If a propaganda department in another province sees a journalist breaking the rules, the journalist's work permit will be suspended," the source said. "If the case is serious, the senior editors will have to quit."
A similar restriction on journalism was enforced three months ahead of the 16th National Congress in 2002, when former party secretary Jiang Zemin was succeeded by Hu Jintao. The restrictions in 2002, however, were not so specific.
Nevertheless, speaking to media outlets on Thursday, Premier Wen encouraged news sites to "tell the truth" and seek information from a variety of sources.
Li Changchun 李長春
Hu Jintao 胡錦濤
Wen Jiabao 溫家寶
Jiang Zemin 江澤民