China Digital Times has collected a series of directives from what Chinese journalists, in true Orwellian fashion, have dubbed the “Ministry of Truth.” These guideline start with the death of Chinese activist Li Wangyang who recently “died” in police custody and has made international headlines. This and other topics are off limits in China:
Regarding the news of Li Wangyang’s death in Shaoyang, Hunan and the foreign media reaction: all media outlets must without exception refrain from granting interviews, reporting or commenting, and must not reprint relevant information from foreign media and websites….
Central Propaganda Department: Yili Milk Powder and Shaanxi Forced Abortion
Regarding heavy metals found in certain batches of Yili Brand milk powder and the seven-month pregnant women in Yuping Village, Cengjia Town, Zhenping County, Ankang City, Shaanxi Province who underwent forced labor: if any media outlet reports on these stories, only Xinhua News Agency’s wire copy may be used. Do not hype these stories, do not exaggerate them, and do not offer in-house reporting or commentary….
Central Propaganda Department: India Arrests Eight Chinese Citizens
According to the Indian media, on June 12 Indian police arrested eight Chinese nationals. No media outlet may report or comment on either this or related incidents, nor may any reprint relevant information or commentary from foreign media and websites.
Back and forth, A freer press, a more restricted press. Nothing new. It even reminds me of some memos I’ve seen distributed by the masters at Fox News telling their “journalists” to cover Republican-related scandals with kid gloves while going after Democrats with everything they’ve got, slanderous or not. The difference is Fox News is not America’s monolithic overseer of the media and cannot dictate what all media in the country can and cannot cover.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.