Authorities tighten up censorship

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 1994, 12:00am

THE Communist Party Propaganda Department has tightened censorship of the media in an effort to promote stability and silence 'discordant voices'.

State control over the media has been stepped up in the wake of a seminar on the subject last week, which was attended by leading propaganda cadres from large and medium-sized cities.

At the conference, held after the shooting incident in Beijing last Tuesday, Propaganda Chief Ding Guan'gen laid down comprehensive guidelines on ways in which the national and regional media should check with central authorities before releasing 'potentially destabilising news'.

A party source said yesterday that the autonomy of the media was further curtailed as the Propaganda Department and related units were given more powers to vet practically all political stories.

'For events including the forthcoming National Day celebrations, national and local media are asked to use the official Xinhua [New China News Agency] wire,' the source said.

'Editors are told to check with the Propaganda Department when they have doubts about scheduling individual stories.' Censorship on economic stories has also been boosted to help 'unify the national will' in fighting inflation.

The activities and speeches of liberal economists including Beijing University professors Li Yining and Xiao Zhuoji have largely been ignored by the official press.

Beijing is also poised to tighten regulations against the 'infiltration' of foreign publications and broadcasts.

Central and local authorities have indicated they will more toughly implement the ban on the unauthorised setting up of satellite dishes by private households and business units.

Since Beijing passed the regulation last summer, many localities have been less than enthusiastic in taking down 'illegal' satellite dishes.

Aside from bureaucratic inertia against carrying out the unpopular regulation, a number of ministries and departments are reluctant to close down the hundreds of factories that manufacture equipment for receiving foreign broadcasts.

At the same time, the prospects for Beijing approving joint-venture media companies have dimmed further.

Propaganda cadres in Beijing have recently cited the examples of Singapore and Malaysia in justifying the clampdown on the 'infiltration' of foreign media.

'I am not optimistic about the future of Sino-foreign and Sino-Hong Kong publications in the near future,' said a Beijing-based propaganda official.

'Every country has its policy to protect the domestic media,' he said.

'It's just like other major industries. No country can afford to have the media dominated by a foreign country or region.

Sources said the Beijing leadership has decided to postpone for the foreseeable future the drafting of a law on journalism. This is despite the fact that the first drafts of the law had appeared as early as 1985.