Free media allegedly ‘impossible’ in today’s China

Rare demonstrations after Chinese government censors article

GMT 13:49 2013 Monday ,07 January

Arab Today, arab today Rare demonstrations after Chinese government censors article

Government spokesman states there is no news censorship in China
Beijing – Arabstoday

Government spokesman states there is no news censorship in China Beijing – Arabstoday Protestors gathered on Monday at the offices of a Chinese newspaper at the centre of a censorship row, in a rare public demonstration in support of media freedom in the country. Hundreds of people were outside the Southern Weekly's office in Guangzhou, according to online reports, with one banner reading: "We want press freedom, constitutionalism and democracy.”
The demonstration in the southern city came after censors Thursday blocked a New Year article in the popular liberal newspaper which called for the realisation of a "dream of constitutionalism in China" to protect rights.
All Chinese media organisations are subject to instructions from government propaganda departments, which often suppress news seen as "negative" by the ruling Communist Party, although some publications can take a more critical stance.
On Friday a liberal Chinese journal's website was shut down after it published an appeal for leaders to guarantee constitutional rights, including freedom of speech and assembly.
The Beijing-based Annals of the Yellow Emperor, which has links with senior retired Communist officials, had argued in its article that the constitution lays out a road map for political reform.
Several influential Chinese journalists have also had their social networking accounts deleted in recent weeks.
The crackdown on freedom of expression comes despite pledges of change from the new Communist leadership, headed by President-in-waiting Xi Jinping, which has promised a more open style of government since the party congress in November.
The censorship at the Southern Weekly, a publication renowned for its investigative journalism and repeated attempts to test the limits of state censorship, sparked online uproar from netizens, including newspaper staff.
Some Internet reports claims media employees went on strike on Sunday after senior editors took control of the newspaper's posts on Weibo, China's own version of Twitter, from day-to-day journalists.
Searches for Southern Weekly on the popular micro-blogging site were blocked on Monday.
A Chinese-language editorial in the state-run Global Times, which has links to the ruling party, said Beijing was determined to maintain the status quo with regards to the media.
"No matter whether these people [angered over the censorship] are happy or not, a common sense is that it is impossible to have the kind of 'free media' they dream of amidst China's social and political reality today," it said.
The media would "undoubtedly be a loser" if it sought to fight the government, it said.
The commentary did not run in the paper's English-language edition.
It followed an open letter from staff at the Southern Weekly which -- in an unusually vocal and public response to the authorities' moves -- called for the resignation of provincial propaganda official Tuo Zhen, who was said to have removed the New Year message and replaced it with a weaker article.
Another letter, signed by scores of prominent academics from across China, emerged over the weekend. This also called for the immediate removal of Tuo and for more press freedom.
Asked about the Southern Weekly article at a regular press briefing last week, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing said: "There is no so-called news censorship in China."
China came 174th in a list of 179 countries ranked for press freedom in 2011-12 by the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.

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