China's Communist Party has issued directives to the nation's media for 2011 ordering them to downplay controversial issues and ensure reporting casts the party in a favourable light, rights groups say.
The 10-point list of orders was issued earlier this month by propaganda chief Li Changchun, according to a report on Boxun.com, an overseas-based website focussing on China human rights issues.
The rules advise the nation's media to tread lightly on hot-button issues such as land prices, political reform and deadly disasters or accidents.
Surging land prices have become a focus of public and government concern in China, and there have been numerous cases of government officials and businesses seeking to cash in by seizing land for real estate developments.
The guidelines order media not to fan public debate about high prices or report on cases of violent land seizures and subsequent public protests, the report says.
Reports about the thousands of large-scale protests and other social disturbances seen each year in China over a range of grievances must "ensure that the party and government do not become the targets or focus of criticism".
Media also must not mention the subject of political reform in a way that casts a negative light on the government.
Calls to the party's propaganda department went unanswered on Friday.
China insists it allows press freedom but in fact the media are tightly controlled or self-censor to avoid government shutdowns.
Press-freedom group Reporters Without Borders expressed "shock" at the directives, saying they "demonstrate the scale of the Chinese Communist Party's attempts to control information and impose censorship inside the country".
The orders were issued by Li at a January 4 meeting of the party's propaganda department, the report on Boxun.com said.
Li is a member of the powerful nine-man Politburo Standing Committee, headed by President Hu Jintao, that governs the party and nation. He is China's top official on media issues.
Official directives to the nation's media are not new. The government regularly sends out orders to rein in coverage of individual sensitive issues.
In October, it banned coverage of the announcement that month that the Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to jailed dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.