China: June 6, 2001

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Top editors of a popular southern China newspaper were dismissed after government censors expressed displeasure at how the paper was exposing incompetence and corruption among government officials. The paper, Southern Weekend, saw circulation soar as the editors thought they had found a way to get around communist party censorship. The paper did not report scandals in their own area (to keep their local communist bosses happy) and never directly criticized the communist party. The scandal stories were popular readers and circulation soared. But officials in the regions being reported on complained to the central government and the senior censors ordered the communist functionaries responsible for the Southern Weekly to take care of things. While the internet is spreading more news of unrest and corruption, only about two percent of the population has internet access. Even with word of mouth, the internet based news only reaches, at most, a quarter of the population. The communist party controls the mass media (and is trying to clamp down on the internet) and will play rough with anyone in the mass media who does not toe the party line. In this case, the (communist) party line is that the party can do no wrong.

 

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