The Chinese government has moved against journalists protesting in South China against state interference by blocking online references to the incident and ordering state media to carry a piece saying the Communist Party of China’s control of the media could not be questioned.
The row began when a New Year message in the paper — also known as Southern Weekly — that had called for guaranteed constitutional rights was changed by censors prior to publication.
Subsequently, the newspaper staff wrote two letters calling for the provincial propaganda chief, Tuo Zhen, to step down. The letters were followed by a strike and protests by a number of workers.
A Reuters reporter outside the paper’s headquarters said police broke up brief scuffles between supporters of the Southern Weekly and another group denouncing the paper.
China Digital Times, a website that tracks China but is blocked here, said it received leaked information about how authorities were censoring online information about the incident.
Titled “Urgent Notice” and dated January 7, the government issued instructions about how to deal with the situation.
“Responsible Party committees and media at all levels must be clear on three points: (1) Party control of the media is an unwavering basic principle; (2) This mishap has nothing to do with Guangdong propaganda department head Tuo Zhen; (3) This incident’s development is due to the meddling of external hostile forces. Every responsible work unit must demand that its department’s editors, reporters, and staff discontinue voicing their support for Southern Weekly online.”