China bans journalists from reporting on ‘we media’

Move further harms freedom of speech for media workers

China flag (Getty Images)

China flag (Getty Images)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China has embarked on a massive crackdown against journalists who use self-media to spread information, amid tightened media censorship.

The measure is part of the annual renewal of press credentials for media workers, said the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) in a directive published on Jan. 19. Individuals working at newspapers, broadcasting companies, TV stations, news websites, and news production studios are subject to the campaign, which takes place from Jan. 20 through March 19.

Self media is publishing on independently operated social media accounts — using platforms such as WeChat, Weibo — and the campaign involves looking for violations such as publishing work-related information on such media accounts. Spreading disinformation or fake news, creating news for personal gain, and moonlighting for jobs associated with journalism are also outlawed, according to the notice.

In a Monday (Jan. 25) article, Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao suggests that changes to how people access information have propelled Chinese journalists to resort to "we-media" — referring to online news sources operated by individuals or collectives, often amateurs. The trend also reflects the need to find an outlet to publish news and express views amid ever stricter control of news content from the authorities.

Beijing has launched similar initiatives to muzzle the freedom of speech online. In October 2020, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it would clamp down on internet browsers in a “rectification effort” to address what it called social concerns stemming from information published online, wrote Reuters.

Updated : 2021-03-06 08:06 GMT+08:00