Government issues new list of banned media topics

New York, August 10, 2001—CPJ is disturbed by the Chinese government’s recent announcement that publications can be summarily closed down for reporting on any one of seven proscribed topics.

The so-called Seven No’s policy was announced August 8 on national television. The banned topics include any criticism of government policies and any reporting that “harms the national interest.”

This directive, issued by the State Press and Publications Administration, is the latest move in a crackdown on the mainland Chinese press that began intensifying in January. Since then, several publications have been shut down and a number of reporters and editors have been dismissed or demoted. Hundreds of journalists have been brought to Beijing to meet with propaganda officials and to “study publicity directions,” according to international press reports.

“The Chinese government has consistently prevented the country’s journalists from reporting freely on issues of national importance,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “This harsh new directive makes matters worse.”

The new policy bans all press reports that:

1. Negate the guiding role of Marxism, Mao Zedong Thought, or Deng Xiaoping Theory;

2. Oppose the guiding principles, official line, or policies of the Communist Party;

3. Reveal state secrets, damage national security, or harm national interests;

4. Oppose official policies regarding minority nationalities and religion, or harm national unity and affect social stability;

5. Advocate murder, violence, obscenity, superstition, or pseudo-science;

6. Spread rumors or falsified news, or interfere in the work of the party and government;

7. Violate party propaganda discipline, or national publishing and advertising regulations.

Government authorities first communicated the seven banned topics to Chinese editors in January, but the August 8 announcement marks the first public acknowledgment of the policy.

Authorities have also progressively stiffened penalties for violating the bans. In January, editors were told that offending publications would receive a warning. After the first warning, editors could be dismissed. After repeated warnings, the publication could be closed down.

In June, media outlets received copies of an internal government document announcing that publications could be closed immediately for violating the ban.

In the August 8 announcement, the central government upped the ante yet again by warning that any province, autonomous region, or municipality in which two or more newspapers are closed down for violating one of these stipulations will not be allowed to launch any new publications in the following year.