Editor and magazine disciplined by party

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2007, 12:00am

A leading mainland news magazine is halfway to closure and its editor has been disciplined after it defied a central government directive not to report on politically sensitive historic events, according to reliable sources.

The Communist Party's propaganda department decided to impose a six-point penalty on Lifeweek magazine after an investigation.

The propaganda department recently introduced the points system for the print media to tighten its control ahead of a crucial party congress this autumn. Media outlets can be closed if they incur a deficit of 12 points.

The magazine's executive editor, Miao Wei , was also disciplined with a 'serious internal warning'.

Disciplining of media officials ranges from 'internal criticism'; 'internal warning'; 'serious internal warning'; and removal from office and party membership.

In a reshuffle, two deputy editors were appointed recently to strengthen the editorial work.

In November the propaganda department and the media regulator ordered the magazine to reform after the publication of three issues seen as politically sensitive.

Lifeweek is run by the Sanlian Book Publication Group, a state-run publication giant.

In its October 30 issue the weekly ran a cover story on the 30th anniversary of the end of the Cultural Revolution, with a front-page picture of Mao Zedong's wife, Jiang Qing , standing trial. Jiang was part of the 'Gang of Four' who played a pivotal role in the 1966-76 turmoil.

In its September 11 issue it ran a lead story on the 30th anniversary of the death of Mao, with his image on the cover. And in its August 30 issue the cover story was on the 30th anniversary of the Tangshan earthquake, in which more than 200,000 died.

In directives issued early last year the propaganda department demanded that media refrain from playing up such topics. It also asked media to limit coverage of such topics to Xinhua's official versions.

The editors of the magazine refused to comment, but a staff member said editorial work had returned to 'normal' after the propaganda department's decision.

'We were wondering what fate the publication would face and the recent decision gave many of us relief as the publication will continue to publish,' said a reporter. The Lifeweek reports contained little content seen as politically sensitive, but party officials insisted the topics were out of bounds.

Beijing recently tightened restrictions on freedom of expression and shut down publications that displayed signs of boldness in what propagandists said were steps needed to ensure a harmonious social environment ahead of the 17th Communist Party Congress. The event will see a leadership reshuffle and set the development agenda for five years.

The crackdown also highlights strict media controls heading into the 2008 Olympics.