Reporters to be coached in Marxist theory

 

CHINESE JOURNALISTS need better coaching in Marxist theory and communist notions of what qualifies as news, the government has decided, because of “problems” with the current batch of reporters.

Li Dongdong, the powerful deputy director of the general administration of press and publication, which regulates publishing and print media in China, said a lack of proper training was giving some reporters a bad name.

“Comrades who are going to be working on journalism’s front lines must learn theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics and be taught Marx’s view on news, plus media ethics and Communist Party discipline on news and propaganda,” she was quoted as saying in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper.

Although reform has led to greater media freedom and independence, the freedom of the Fourth Estate to report what it wants is not a given in China. Reporters work within very tight constraints. While western democracies believe journalism should have a monitoring role to ensure there is no abuse of power, the communist theory is that the media should serve its leadership and not undermine its rule in any way, shape or form.

Ms Li has actively monitored reporters in China. Last year, she said news censors would set up a blacklist of Chinese journalists found breaking reporting rules.

The Chinese media is strictly controlled by government. The opening up of China’s media market means newspapers and magazines have to compete to survive and the stricter regulations are aimed at stopping a rash of fake news stories. These have included a false report on Chinese TV about a dumpling factory using sawdust as the main ingredient.

The rules are also to stop people masquerading as reporters to extort money and bribes. In some parts of China illegal mine owners have been threatened with exposure unless their silence is bought.

But there are fears that the rules can be turned around to stop journalists reporting on uncomfortable truths local officials do not want revealed.

A senior editor at the Beijing-based Economic Observer wrote this week that he had been punished for co-authoring an editorial that urged the government to scrap an unpopular household registration system, the hukou, saying it discriminated against the poor. His remarks were carried in 13 newspaper editorials, an almost unprecedented act of defiance.

Any new rules are unlikely to apply to foreign reporters, who are regulated by the ministry of foreign affairs.