Propaganda toned down to cool anti-Japanese sentiment
Censors step in to prevent the media whipping up trouble over Tokyo's security council bid
Communist Party censors have acted over the rising tide of anti-Japanese sentiment nationwide, ordering all media to drop coverage of public protests against the Japanese government and companies.
The ban was contained in an eight-point circular issued by the party's Central Publicity Department.
Apart from instructions to cool public antagonism towards Japan, sources said the circular also banned coverage of deposed party general secretary Zhao Ziyang and the crackdown on internet websites.
It also restricted reporting on the Pope's death.
'No media coverage on anti-Japanese protests [should be allowed]. Journalists should not participate in or conduct interviews to do with anti-Japanese activities,' the circular said.
It reminded the media to be vigilant about those trying to take advantage of the anti-Japanese sentiment to put pressure on the government over domestic issues which have triggered sharp debate in the media and internet chat rooms.
'[The media] should be highly alert to collusion [among groups which promote] liberalisation, Falun Gong, anti-Japanese [sentiment] and religions,' the circular said, using Communist Party references to westernisation and the spiritual group branded an 'evil cult' and banned six years ago on the mainland.
'[The media] must attach great attention to the issues and maintain a high degree of political alertness,' it added.
The circular followed anti-Japanese demonstrations in more than 20 mainland cities over the weekend against Tokyo's attempt to secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
The media should be prepared to keep up their guard for a fairly long period as Japan's bid would not be decided until September, the circular said.
On the death of the Pope, it said: 'If any stories [related to the Pope's death] are to be used, the Xinhua version on the subject must be used.
'Such stories should not be placed on front pages and the media should not choose pictures by themselves in their coverage.'
Sources said the media were also told to avoid all reports about Zhao, reflecting the authorities' concern over political stability three months after his death.
The media was not allowed to report any activities held during the Ching Ming Festival yesterday to mourn Zhao's death.
Citing initial campus and media reaction over the continuing nationwide crackdown on university websites as destabilising factors, the circular said no further coverage of the subject was allowed.
Policies introduced by the Ministry of Education last month aimed at tightening control over the free exchange of ideas on internet forums have sparked strong protests from students and drawn harsh media criticism.