01/04/2013, 00.00
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Guangdong: journalists criticise Party propaganda and censorship

by Wang Zhicheng
Press freedom "raped". Head of provincial propaganda under attack after forcing the publication of an editorial lauding party achievements and removing newspaper editorial calling for the implementation of the constitution. Open letter from journalists blocked online; their microblog threatened. The public worry the newspaper will be closed. The contradiction between Xi Jinping’s sermons, in praise of constitution, and the reality of the provinces, governed in a Stalinist way.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews) - Journalists from a weekly magazine in Guangdong have criticized the interference of public authorities from the local propaganda office who forced them to publish an editorial exalting the Part's achievements, removing an article in praise of the Constitution and calling for its implementation.

The episode is a first. Usually, journalists, fearing for their jobs, accept all the changes and the complaints that the Party imposes lying face down. Instead, this time they have even opened a page in a blog and have signed their letter of criticism. The page was immediately removed, however, and several of them diverted their demands to a personal microblog to continue criticism of what they call the "rape" of the autonomy of a newspaper editorial.

By tradition, the first day of the year, the Southern Weekly (Nanfang Zhōumò) offers its readers a series of articles on the prospects of the New Year.

One of the journalists, Su Yongtong, had prepared an editorial that was to have opened the edition. The title was "The dream of China, the dream of Constitutionalism", which stated that the Chinese could hope to realize their dreams if the constitution is implemented. The implementation of the constitution was one of the themes repeated by the new leader Xi Jinping during and after the Party Congress.

But one day before the release, the provincial chief of propaganda, Tuo Zhen (see photo), who is also vice president of Xinhua, forced the newspaper to replace the editorial with another titled "Pursuing dreams," which claims the Chinese people are closer in achieving their dreams thanks to the painstaking efforts of the Party.

The article by Su was then inserted, but with the title and contents changed. And also some references to democracy were deleted.

In the open letter - later blocked - the journalists note that the editorial imposed by the Party also contains historical errors.

After the open letter was removed, many journalists expressed their concerns through their personal microblog. But 15 of them received threats and were obliged to remove their posts.

In addition to illustrating a new consciousness in the world of mass media, the incident also shows the biggest contradiction that Xi Jinping will face: the grand and beautiful words used in the official programs, alongside the decrepit and Stalinist practice of local authorities, contrast sharply with his sermons.

The weekly  newspaper has a strong tradition of support for the people and to their fundamental human rights. Now its readers fear that the newspaper will be closed.


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