01/10/2013, 00.00
CHINA
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Another newspaper attack on censorship: first cracks in Beijing regime

by Chen Weijun
The Beijing News in the wake of the Southern Weekend refuses to publish an article imposed by communist propaganda. After a long standoff, the government wins, but entire editorial staff protests online. Meanwhile back at the newsstand, albeit with some difficulty, the Guangzhou weekly that first started the protest against government censorship.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - After the Southern Weekend, another one of the major Chinese newspapers has decided to fight against the censorship imposed by the communist regime. On the same day that the Guangdong weekly reached an agreement with the provincial government, in fact, the editor of the Beijing News and its editorial staff have refused to print an editorial in the Global Times (the official organ of the Party) attacking the "rebel" newspaper of Guangzhou.

The editors and staff of the Beijing News today say they are "angry" by the intervention of Yan Liqiang, the capital's deputy director of propaganda, who presented the Party approved article to the newspaper demanding it be printed. It stated that "the controversy of the Southern Weekend was caused by external forces that led the newspaper to challenge the government." Moreover, it casts doubt on the authenticity of the open letters sent by the editorial staff of the magazine to the government.

So as not to be subjected to this request, the publisher of the newspaper in the capital, Dai Zigeng, resigned, and his staff has given their "full support." Lu Wei, head of propaganda, then called him during the night to reject the resignation and agree with publication of the text in yesterday's edition, but only on page 20. In addition, the editor in charge of this page did not sign the article in protest.

The journalists commented on the incident on their microblogs, increasingly a tool of protest in contemporary China. Although many postings were later deleted by the Internet censors, some were saved. A source at the newspaper writes: "I found it a barbaric act for propaganda officials to storm into a newsroom, forcing the publication of an article and threatening the journalists that the paper might be shut down".

Meanwhile, the weekly Southern Weekend is back on newsstands today after a protracted standoff with the propaganda authorities, accusing them of wanting to control the media and not complying with the dictates of the Constitution. In the current issue, which however has been delayed in distribution, there is an editorial acknowledging the need for a control but asking that this is in "keeping with the times."

In the editorial, the magazine published in the provincial capital of Guangdong writes that the control of the media must "keep pace with the times. It's fundamental that the party regulates the press, but its method of regulation needs to be advanced to keep pace with the times. " However, the text does not make references to the editorial of January 1 censored by the authorities, calling for the respect of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

The edition can be found on newsstands in Beijing and Shanghai, but not in Guangzhou. However, in the Shanghai edition there are two special features: one focused on a new regulation on land reclamation and the other on "the dramatic changes" in reform.. According to the distribution office "everything is normal", and there has been no explanation over the absence of the pages.

The fate of Tuo Zhen, head of the local propaganda at the centre of the weekly's protests, is also unclear. After his intervention in the January 1 edition, in fact, the journalists went on strike and called for his removal: according to some sources, during the negotiations yesterday between the journalists and the government an agreement was reached that provides for the removal of the official but only "later", so as to avoid public embarrassment.

 

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