All change at top in media machine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2008, 12:00am

New men in charge of party mouthpieces

The central government has appointed the former president of People's Daily as the new minister for the State Council's Information Office in a reshuffle of personnel at the ruling party's and government's news organs and propaganda machine, according to reliable sources.

Wang Chen will fill the vacuum left by Cai Wu, who was appointed minister of culture at last month's National People's Congress meeting.

Zhang Yannong, the newspaper's former editor-in-chief, was promoted to replace Mr Wang as head of the party mouthpiece.

Wu Hengquan, the president of the party's theoretical publication, Seeking Truth, was named editor-in-chief of People's Daily, sources said, citing an internal announcement over the weekend.

The publications are seen as the 'mouth and tongue' of the Communist Party, playing the role of guiding the country's ideology. The organs enjoy ministerial-level status.

Mr Wang, 58, a member of the party's decision-making Central Committee, is a veteran party propagandist, having served as editor-in-chief of Guangming Daily, a central government-run newspaper, and vice-minister of the party Central Committee's Publicity Department before joining People's Daily in 2002.

Mr Zhang, 60, was a political commissar with the People's Liberation Army Air Force and deputy secretary general of the Publicity Department before he was named editor of the party newspaper in 2003.

Mr Wu, 55, was deputy editor-in-chief of People's Daily before he was appointed head of Seeking Truth in 2003. A deputy will succeed him to head the publication, although the announcement has yet to be made.

Li Baoshan , the editor-in-chief of Seeking Truth and former head of the Publicity Department's bureaus of news and arts, is in charge until a new boss is found, staff said.

Staff at the Information Office and People's Daily said Mr Wang, Mr Wu and Mr Zhang began work yesterday. Sources said it was the largest reshuffle of its kind in a decade, with most of the other major organs likely to get new bosses for the next five years.

The party and the central government began announcing personnel changes at ministerial-level organs within days of the NPC approving a new cabinet for the next five years.

More appointments of senior government officials are expected in the coming weeks, following the major State Council reshuffle.

The director of the Information Office is the top government spokesman. The office is also in charge of mainland and foreign media, organising all major government departments' media briefings and publishing important documents, such as white papers on issues of foreign concern, like defence, human rights and Tibet .

People's Daily, the newspaper with the biggest circulation on the mainland, has some 20,000 employees and 700 reporters. It publishes dozens of publications and a daily newspaper with a circulation of 3 million copies, though its influence has shrunk in the past two decades.