China’s top internet regulator has ordered all major news outlets and major online companies to stop any and all original news reporting. The demand is the latest installment of the government’s push to tighten its grip on the country’s web and information industries. Several major news networks, such as Sohu.com Inc. and NetEase Inc., have been accused of “seriously violating” the country’s internet regulations by creating news content through original reporting. The ban is a clear move to suppress non-government approved information. The government has announced that the companies that have violated these regulations will be subject to “serious penalties.”
General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, justified the ban by telling all media companies in China that they must work in the interest of the communist party. In February he comment on the relationship between the Chinese media and the communist government. He stated:
“They must love the party, protect the party, and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action,”
The new ban gives the government a near-complete stranglehold on the information being distributed to the people of China. All information coming from social media or unapproved sources is considered “false news” by the Chinese government and makes the company that reported to it subject to penalties that have not been clearly defined.
The Chinese government is actively working on a program that will place a government official within the ranks of all media companies to oversee production of news content. They will require all new agencies to purchase a license in exchange for the “privilege” of creating daily news. In order to purchase a license new agencies will be forced to add a government employee to their board of directors and offer them a small stake in the company. The company would be forced to turn over at least 1% of the company to the official.
The recent media crackdown has been attributed to a personnel change within the Chinese government. China’s chief internet regulator was recently replaced by former Shanghai propaganda chief Xu Lin. Lin has been far more oppressive than her predecessor and shows no sign of releasing the government’s grip on the media.