China's Media Control

The Chinese Communist Party holds the reins on reporting in three primary ways: (1) Registration and licensing for news organizations is mandatory and easily revocable by the central government; (2) Many media rely partly or wholly on the CCP for funds; and (3) The CCP appoints the executives within most media organizations.  Publishing a politically unacceptable article on a “sensitive” topic like Falun Gong could easily result in the loss of a license, funding, and jobs within the organization [1].

In addition it is not just Chinese media that are censored; foreign media operating inside China are restricted as well.  The state-controlled Xinhua News Agency first implemented explicit laws censoring foreign media in 1996.[i] Perhaps fearing that those restrictions were not effective enough, on September 10, 2006, Xinhua issued a further set of media restrictions, entitled “Measures for Administering the Release of News and Information in China by Foreign News Agencies.”   

The new stipulations include that (1) all foreign news organizations providing news to China must be approved by Xinhua; (2) Xinhua reserves the right to directly censor and edit inflowing news; (3) media in China may not directly publish or translate news from foreign news agencies without approval; and (4) media found to have violated any of the regulations may in the future be blocked from operating in China.

The rules mean that, if a foreign media organization wants to operate successfully inside China, it must, to varying degrees, abide by the same censorship restrictions as China’s domestic media.  This, of course, means no positive reporting on Falun Gong [2]. 

Prior to the Olympics, the CCP promised to ease restrictions on foreign reporting. As restrictions on reporting on the March 2008 crackdown in Tibet, and according to journalists working in China - these restrictions have not been lifted in any meaningful way (See Reporters Without Borders press release [http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=26248]).

 Additional links:
 
  1. Out of the Media Spotlight  Compassion magazine piece on Western media’s coverage of the Falun Gong.
  2. Propaganda Section
[1] Xing, Guoxin. The market, the state and the transformation of China’s propaganda: A case study of the party media. Diss. University of Regina, Saskatchewan, 2005.
 
[2] While Xinhua’s specific censorship policies are left intentionally vague, they contain clauses that belie the tight censorship of Falun Gong information. For example, Article 11 states, “News and information released in China by foreign news agencies shall not contain [content] that serves to...violate China’s religious policies or preach evil cults or superstition.” This phrase contains language similar to that which Xinhua frequently uses to refer to Falun Gong.

The 1996 censorship law was called “Measures for the Exercise of Administration over Publication in China of Economic Information by Foreign News Agencies and Their Information Subsidiaries.”