Southern Weekly's moment of reckoning

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 8:56am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 4:09pm











10:45AM, January 7

The situation continues to escalate at Southern Weekly, considered by many to be China's most respectable newspaper, where journalists there have been joined by some managerial staff in calling for an investigation into the censorship of its annual address for 2013, and for the resignation of Tuo Zhen, the propaganda official who penned his own unauthorised version.

After the scandal broke, journalists at the newspaper began airing their grievances on their personal microblog accounts, only to quickly be silenced and in some cases have their accounts deleted. Beyond that, efforts at Sina Weibo and other online platforms to censor discussion of media industry and public outrage at Tuo's move have been fast and furious and unrelenting.

On Sina Weibo, where the ensuing discussion is centred, Southern Weekly's official microblog account was seized by management at the newspaper, leading to a fresh round of outrage and protests online, and the decision by several editors to go on strike today.

In addition, offline protests are scheduled to take place today outside Southern Weekly's offices in Guangzhou and Beijing. Late Sunday evening, mainstream media and even Communist Party mouthpieces such as People's Daily tweeted vaguely worded statements in support of Southern Weekly journalists and editors.  

E-commerce platform Taobao, for instance, wrote early this morning on its official Sina Weibo account, "There is no winter which can't be outlasted. Even now, the swallows are flying toward the South."

All four of the characters which comprise Southern Weekly's name in Chinese are also currently being filtered from search results on Sina Weibo.

We'll be constantly updating our liveblog below so check back soon, but in the meantime here's some background to the controversy:

SCMP: Southern Weekly censorship row escalates as staff strike, hundreds sign petitionJournalists call for censor to quit over editorial scandal, Tuo Zhen, crusading journalist turned Guangdong propagandist, Former 'Southern Weekly' journalists want propaganda chief Tuo Zhen to go 
Beijing Cream: Journalists Are Threatening Boycotts, Calling For Protests Over Southern Weekly Incident 
Offbeat China: Modern China’s first open war over freedom of speech accelerated 
BBC: Southern Weekly reporters confront China censors 
New York Times: Test for New Leaders as Chinese Paper Takes On Censors 
China Media Project


January 7, 2013

03:14 Zuo Zhijian, director of features at Southern Media Group's 21st Century Herald's Shanghai office, writes that an emergency meeting was held Saturday at Southern Weekly lasting until 6am Sunday morning.

02:58 Staff at Southern Weekly publish a photo from the newsroom, thanking readers for their support.

01:47 Demands for an official apology and that all Southern Weekly journalists be spared any punishment are posted to the official microblog of the student union at Guangzhou's Jinan University, whose journalism program has fed many graduates into Southern Media Group. "The public is being silenced," reads the letter, "news can't be reported from the mainland, but countless people have still taken it upon themselves to speak out in support."

00:40 A Sina Weibo account for media interns notes that results are being blocked for searches done on the site of the names of several universities, including Jinan University, South China Normal University, South China University of Technology and Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, as well as Jinan University in Shandong province, Southwest University in Jiangsu, Southwest University in Chongqing and Nankai University in Tianjin. Throughout the weekend, students at universities around the country posted photos online to show their support for Southern Weekly. http://weibo...

January 6, 2013

23:04 Southern Weekly commentator Li Tie, writing on his NetEase microblog account, refutes the statement published on the newspaper's Sina Weibo account. He mentions it was decided at the newspaper's Saturday editorial meeting Saturday that a full internal investigation would be conducted and the results will be made public soon, adding that nothing less than the newspaper's credibility is at stake.

22:27 A statement refuting the one published on Southern Weekly's official Sina Weibo microblog account claiming responsibility for the new year address that went to print is published on the newspaper's official account on the NetEase microblog platform, signed by nearly 100 employees. 

22:18 Southern Weekly's social media editor Feng Duan announces on his Sina Weibo microblog account he's been forced to hand over the password to the newspaper's account, and the post is deleted shortly after. 

22:04 Southern Weekly financial journalist and editor Zhang Hua (张华) announces on his Sina Weibo account that he and other colleagues have gone on strike and quickly gathers more than 13,000 comments. That post is quickly deleted but at 22:06 he updates his account to thank his supporters, receiving more than 1,600 comments. 

21:20 A statement to readers is published on Southern Weekly's Sina Weibo account with a claim the newspaper itself was responsible for the 'fake' new year address, followed by an apology. The version that went to print, the statement reads, was drafted by an employee of the newspaper, and recent online rumours are untrue.