Support for China censorship row paper Southern Weekly

 
Unidentified man wearing a mask with word "silent" holds a banner reading: "Let's chase our dreams together, go Southern Weekly newspaper" during a protest outside the newspaper on 7 Jan 2013 Supporters of the Southern Weekly have rallied at its offices as the row rumbles on

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Several Chinese media outlets have appeared to back journalists at a weekly newspaper embroiled in a row over censorship.

News portals carried a state-sanctioned editorial criticising the journalists.

But they added a disclaimer saying that posting the piece did not mean that they shared the views it expressed.

Meanwhile journalists at the newspaper, the Southern Weekly, are reported to be engaged in talks with propaganda officials over the row, AP reports.

Up to 100 people - most of them young - turned up to protest at the offices of the Southern Weekly in the southern city of Guangzhou for a second day on Tuesday.

Some wore face masks and carried flowers to mourn what they see as the death of press freedom in one of China's most prosperous and liberal cities.

A Reuters reporter outside the paper's headquarters said police broke up brief scuffles between supporters of the Southern Weekly and another group denouncing the paper.

'No surprise ending'

The row began when a New Year message in the paper - also known as Southern Weekend - that had called for guaranteed constitutional rights was changed by censors prior to publication.

Staff wrote two letters calling for the provincial propaganda chief, Tuo Zhen, to step down. Another row then erupted over control of the paper's microblog when a message was posted denying that the piece had been changed.

Key figures

  • Southern Weekly - weekly paper with 1.6m circulation, based in southern province of Guangdong; seen as influential and daring, but like all China's media, it answers to the ruling Communist Party
  • Tuo Zhen - former economics journalist who took over as Guangdong propaganda chief in 2012, prompting increasing criticism of his heavy-handed measures
  • Huang Can, Southern Weekly's acting editor-in-chief
  • Hu Chunhua - newly appointed Communist Party chief of Guangdong province, and touted as a future leader of China; will be tasked with resolving the stand-off
  • Among those signing open letters opposing Tuo Zhen's actions are prominent legal scholar He Weifang, outspoken economist Mao Yushi and prominent blogger Li Chengpeng

A number of staff went on strike and protesters demonstrated outside the paper's offices.

On Tuesday, an editorial from the state-run Global Times was republished on multiple news sites - the result, according to some reports, of a government directive.

The directive described state control of the media an "unwavering" principle, blamed the incident on "hostile outside forces" and said workers should not voice support for Southern Weekly journalists.

The Global Times editorial, meanwhile, said local provincial officials were not behind changes to the New Year message, adding that activists outside China's media industry - including US-based blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng - had been "inciting some media to engage in confrontation".

It said that reform "out of step with political development" was unrealistic.

"For media professionals, it is clear that under the reality of China's current state of affairs, the country is unlikely to have the 'absolutely free media' that is dreamed of by those activists.

"The Southern Weekly issue will not be concluded with a surprise ending."

Major web portals including Sina, Sohu and Tencent republished the article. But their disclaimers said that publication did not mean they shared its opinion or endorsed its content.

Print editions of at least four well-known newspapers - Xiao Xiang Morning Post, Shanghai Morning Post, China Youth Daily, Oriental Daily - appeared not to be carrying the piece.

The Chinese media are supervised by so-called propaganda departments that often change content to align it with party thinking.

Southern Weekly, based in Guangdong, is one of the country's most respected newspapers, known for its hard-hitting investigations and for testing the limits of freedom of speech.

Its next edition is due out on Thursday. Editors and propaganda officials are engaged in negotiations over the terms under which the journalists would be willing to publish, AP reported, citing an unidentified Southern Weekly editor.

The row is being keenly watched as a test for China's new leaders, who took over in November last year.

It has also sparked a reaction in cyberspace, with comments from prominent bloggers and journalists.

Actress Yao Chen posted the newspaper's logo and quoted Russia's Alexandr Solzhenitsyn in a microblog post to her 32 million followers: "One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 69.

    i cant believe that people think the uk and the western world has free media, really cant believe it, some of these comments must be made by recluses, people in the uk are being send to prison for saying things that offend others pfft

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 41.

    Most people here don't know that Southern Weekend is part of the communists' propaganda machine. It may have a relatively more liberal face than other communist papers, it is still a tool of the communist government and because of its deceptive appearance, it's actually more effective in supporting the rule of the regime.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 40.

    Free press is such an over-rated scam. Freedom of speech means we can all say whatever we want, but we never get the truth because the big mouths are always the big money/PR/propaganda.
    Stick to entertainment guys. I'd rather my country have growth, I don't care about politics and I don't see most Chinese people complaining apart from us from the west.
    Bring us some money, you can take my paper.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 33.

    Surely what is allowed into Chinese nespapers is not more monitored or skewed than what is allowed into western newspapers. I feel China is progressing, has progressed and will progress along the road to more media freedom.
    What excuse do western media outlets have for their frequent bias and to say the least - lack of full truth disclosure?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 24.

    China's governance wont improve until its government can learn from mistakes. It censors the press because it confuses the interests of the communist party with the interests of the people. The only person responsible for the integrity of any state office is the person doing the job and how well they do it, as judged by the people, informed by a free press.

 

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