The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) recently found that several major internet news portals, including Sina, Sohu, NetEase, and iFeng, produced independent news reports that were against Chinese law. The sites were ordered to terminate the columns and remove all illegal content within a deadline.
The sites substantially violated the Provisions for the Administration of Internet News Information Services, which prohibits publishing independently collected and edited information, according to the Beijing Morning Post. They did not have the necessary state-issued licenses for producing news. Hence, the CAC fined the companies for their “extremely negative influences” and told them to “rectify” their sites. The cleanup involves shutting down or removing the illegal content from all platforms, including web pages and public WeChat accounts.
Last month, China’s controversial “internet czar” Lu Wei stepped down and let his deputy, Xu Lin, take over. A journalism professor from Beijing’s Foreign Languages University speculated that the move was made because, “The new boss just took office and has to do something new,” reports The Guardian. Other sources speculate that different motives were involved. With the Communist Party Congress coming up next year, Chinese President Xi Jinping “is really tightening up his crusade to silence opponents in the media,” Bloomberg News quotes an adjunct professor of China studies from Hong Kong as saying. Recently online rumors and opinions have been running wild with the recent South China Sea decision and the devastating floods.
A reporter who used to work for iFeng’s independent column said that the column often published sensitive material without seeking government approval and then waited to see if authorities would take it down.
In February, during a tour of state media headquarters in Beijing, Xi declared that all media must be “surnamed Party” so they can give “correct guidance of public opinion,” by “singing the main theme, transmitting positive energy.” Accidentally reporting that Xi resigned and carrying reports that he had a carrion beetle named after him are examples of what the Chinese president was not talking about in that message. We’ll have to wait and see if China can improve on its World Press Freedom Index ranking next year, after coming in 5th from the bottom in April.
By Amy Yang