News rectification campaign: explained for your convenience

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A two-month campaign on news standardization has been announced by the State Council Internet Information office, the arm of the State Council Information Office (or Foreign Propaganda Office, in Chinese) tasked with maintaining order on online news and social media. SIIO has been ramping up pressure on news media recently, so this should not come as any surprise. If this campaign resembles previous campaigns in similar field, there will be a period in which Chinese journalists will be extra careful in toeing the line, particularly in issues of form. Some heinous examples will be brought to light and touted as victory, and after two months, things will go on pretty much as before. As in any large bureaucracy, its more important to appear as if work is being done, than to do work. 

The fun for us academics is in reading the tealeaves as to how this campaign is being framed. Hence, a little lexicon on expressions in this document and how to understand them. I have underlined some terms in the full article, which are explained here:

– Unstandardized news source indications: in principle, most online news websites (with the exception of those belonging to mainstream news outlets such as People’s Daily) are not permitted to gather their own news in matters of economic, political or social interest. They are required to reprint stories from main news sites or Xinhua, and indicate the source used. If such source is absent, that might refer to the fact that foreign reports might have been used, which is a no-no.

– False or inaccurate reports: very often, reports that might be generally true, but that someone in the Party hierarchy wants to keep under wraps. The vaguer the denial, the greater the probability that there might be something to the story. This is particularly true for “inaccurate”, which may be used when the gist of a story is true, but numbers quoted are off. 

– Closely revolving around the larger picture of Party and State work: I call this concept doubletruth, the notion that a story about a true event is not suitable for printing because it might endanger a “higher truth” put forward by politics. “The larger picture” means that journalists must not harm social or political stability for the sake of smaller interests.

– Unity, stability and encouragement: this means that (1) journalists should not clearly identify specific interest groups, but talk in general terms such as ‘the people’, ‘the masses’ or ‘the public’; (2) journalists should maintain stability in all its guises and not incite unrest, dissent, discord or other trouble and (3) journalists should provide clear guidelines for simple actions that can be taken to solve problems that are identified.

– Giving first place to positive propaganda: this propaganda principle was instituted after 1989, as the Party had noticed that a loss of control over the press had led to visible leadership splits, which were exploited by dissenting voices concerned about inflation, employment and other matters. As a result, the decision was taken to focus on positive, rather than negative news. In fact, there’s a whole speech about this.

– Sticking close to reality, life and the masses: news should discuss concrete facts, not larger tendencies. Analysis should focus on individual cases and events, not systemic causes for deeper running problems. 

– Healthy style: first, not causing social unrest or stability issues, but furthermore, also not encouraging vulgarization of public discourse, etc. 

– Professional morals/responsibility: voluntarily and consciously conducting journalism in a Party-approved manner, without the need for the propaganda bureaucracy to intervene – in relation to propagating the Chinese dream, for example. 

State Internet Information Office Deploys and Launches Special Campaign to Standardize Internet News Information Dissemination order  

The State Internet Information Office has deployed a special campaign, starting on 9 May, which will run for two months on a nationwide level, to standardize the Internet news information dissemination order.

The State Internet Information Office’s relevant responsible person states that this special campaign is aimed at prominent problems existing in websites publishing news at present, it focuses on dealing with unstandardized news source indications, releasing false or inaccurate reports, malicious distortion of news titles, illegal use of the name of news organs to release news and other unlawful acts.

This responsible person says that, in recent years, network media have closely revolved around the larger picture of Party and State work, persisted in unity, stability and encouragement, giving first place to positive propaganda, persisted in sticking close to reality, sticking close to life and sticking close to the masses, vigorously disseminated healthy and upward news information, fully reflected the huge achievements obtained in economic and social development, fully reflected the development results that the popular masses enjoy, their happy experiences of leading beautiful lives, and have sung the main melody of the times that the Communist Party is good, Socialism is good, reform and opening up are good, the magnificent motherland is good, and the people of all ethnicities are good online.

This responsible person stresses that standardizing the Internet news dissemination order, providing true and rapid news information in varied forms, with a healthy style and rich content to the public, and creating a healthy and upward network public opinion environment, are important tasks for Internet news information content construction. All localities and all websites must fully understand the importance of launching the special campaign, strengthen organizational guidance, formulate implementation plans, grasp the implementation of work and guarantee that real results are obtained. They must implement their management responsibility, expand inspection and guidance strength concerning the websites in their jurisdiction, supervise websites in completing and perfecting internal management systems, and raise new gatekeeping capabilities. They must expand punishment strength, and strictly deal with law-breaking websites where problems repeatedly occur, and that repeatedly commit offences according to the law. They must give rein to the function of social supervision, and conduct criticism and exposure of dissemination of false news, paid-for news and other acts. They must strengthen news employee training, continue to deeply launch “going to the grass roots, changing work styles, improving language styles” activities, and guide them in establishing a correct view of news, scrupulously abide by professional morals, strengthen a sense of the larger picture and a sense of responsibility, strive to create a good network public opinion environment for the millions of people to realize the magnificent Chinese dream.

国信办部署开展规范互联网新闻信息传播秩序专项行动

国家互联网信息办部署从5月9日起在全国范围内开展为期两个月的规范互联网新闻信息传播秩序专项行动。
国家互联网信息办有关负责人介绍,这次专项行动,针对当前网站登载新闻存在的突出问题,重点整治新闻来源标注不规范、编发虚假失实报道、恶意篡改新闻标题、冒用新闻机构名义编发新闻等违规行为。
该负责人说,近年来,网络媒体紧紧围绕党和国家工作大局,坚持团结稳定鼓劲、正面宣传为主,坚持贴近实际、贴近生活、贴近群众,积极传播健康向上的新闻信息,充分反映经济社会发展取得的巨大成就,充分反映人民群众共享发展成果、过上美好生活的幸福感受,在网上唱响了共产党好、社会主义好、改革开放好、伟大祖国好、各族人民好的时代主旋律。
该负责人强调,规范互联网新闻传播秩序,为公众提供真实快捷、形式多样、格调健康、内容丰富的新闻信息,营造积极向上的网络舆论生态,是互联网新闻信息内容建设的重要任务。各地方和网站要充分认识开展专项行动的重要性,加强组织领导,制定实施方案,抓好工作落实,确保取得实效。要落实管理责任,加大对属地网站检查指导力度,督促网站健全完善内部管理制度,提高新闻把关能力。要加大处罚力度,对屡出问题、屡改屡犯的违规网站依法依规严肃处理。要发挥社会监督作用,对传播虚假新闻、有偿新闻等行为进行批评曝光。要加强新闻从业人员培训,继续深入开展“走基层、转作风、改文风”活动,引导他们树立正确的新闻观,恪守职业道德,增强大局意识和责任意识,努力为亿万人民实现宏伟的中国梦创造良好的网络舆论环境。

One thought on “News rectification campaign: explained for your convenience

    […] Circular, but it certainly seems that they are branches of the same root. Furthermore, there is the recent campaign to rectify online news  and the order prohibiting journalists from using foreign source material. […]

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