Bing Dian had previously attracted attention and official criticism with articles about corruption, Taiwan and—perhaps most irritating to the powers that be—heavy-handed political interference in the work of the media. In the case of Bing Dian, the powers in question are probably the highest in the land. The paper is a weekly supplement in the China Youth Daily newspaper, which is affiliated to the Communist Party Youth League. The Youth League, in turn, is the institutional power base of China's president and Communist Party chief, Hu Jintao, so Mr Hu was likely to have been directly involved in the decision to shut Bing Dian down. (The Economist)
BBC writes that China's media has recently sought the approval of the readers over that of the state's censors.
And they have found plenty of supporters - some in unlikely quarters - willing to speak up on their behalf. "There is now an unstoppable wave of demands for more freedom of expression and resistance to the old propaganda policies," said Jiao Guobiao, who was forced to resign his post as a journalism professor last year...
The row over the extent of people's right to know shows that the Communist Party's authority is ebbing away, he said. But without censorship, the party could not maintain its rule for a day, he added."
The international attention to the compliance of US technology companies in enforcing the official Chinese censor machine has been far less a domestic issue. However, the recent closure of Bing Dian (Freezing Point) has become a domestic rally point for public protest.
Far more embarrassing, not to say ominous, has been the chorus of domestic protest over the closure in late January of Bing Dian (Freezing Point), a weekly publication noted for its cutting-edge reporting on sensitive topics. The reopened magazine would be an empty shell of its previous self, they said, and had been ordered to print a full rebuttal of the article on historical censorship which triggered the closure.
Among those who have rallied behind the editors are a group of former senior party and media officials, including Mao Zedong's secretary and a former editor-in-chief of the People's Daily. The Taiwanese-born columnist Lung Ying-tai, whose controversial articles for Bing Dian may have been the real reason for the closure, has sent an open letter of protest to President Hu Jintao. (BBC)
"The reappearance of Bing Dian is an act of bogus leniency. The investigative weekly has had its two prime movers cut away and replaced by a loyal communist party journalist," said Reporters Without Borders. "While the crackdown and censorship of the media is being contested by veterans of the Chinese communist party, sanctions continue to bite. They confirm the determination of Hu Jintao to gag the press to prevent it from revealing the failings of the regime," it said. (RSF)
Force for Change
Propaganda officials have also faced other public challenges to their authority, including a rare strike by reporters in support of three editors dismissed from a leading daily, the Beijing News, late last year. But what really worries them is that those now pushing for a lifting of censorship include not just journalists and activists, but also people in business, government and law who believe media reform is a necessary part of China's modernisation.
China's rapid economic growth is proving a strong force for change, he said, pointing out that the media was already far more open in many ways than in the past. China's 11,000 newspapers and periodicals, along with its 600-plus radio and TV stations, are more intent these days on satisfying the demands of the market than the state censor, who no longer pays their bills.
"The media have seized upon pushing harder and digging deeper, writing about corruption and Communist Party scandals as ways to sell more papers," he said.
As Vietnam moves towards it's own modernization, we recall similar event happening in recent times regarding the media. These events, were reported by the BBC
When Lan Anh, a staff writer for the popular daily Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, wrote a series of articles on Zuellig Pharma last year, she was hailed for brilliant investigative reporting. During the last couple of months, the government has decided to shut down one of the country's most popular news and entertainment websites, tintucvietnam.com, as well as to sack the editor-in-chief of the leading online newspaper, Vnexpress.
With exception to the Ministry, there has been a widespread defense of the journalist from several newspapers, including the official newspaper for The Peoples Supreme Court (Cong Ly).
Politburo member Nguyen Khoa Diem, head of the party's powerful Ideology and Culture Commission, was quoted in state newspapers in December as saying Vietnam must "strengthen the management" of the press. "Many newspapers are being influenced by commercialisation and their activities are not in line with proper principles and objectives," he said in Tuoi Tre, the daily newspaper whose reporter is facing legal action. But Tuoi Tre and other newspapers have been vocal in their defence of the journalist, Lan Anh, who is accused of using secret health ministry notes in a series of articles exposing excessive pricing in the pharmaceuticals market.
Even the newspaper run by the People's Supreme Court, Cong Ly (Justice), carried an article last week saying Anh had not broken any laws. Less has been said publicly about the popular news websites, however.
Observers say Vietnam, like China, is grappling with the dilemma of expanding internet use for the sake of development while maintaining strict control over any content deemed subversive. Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnamese affairs at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said strict controls "will handicap Vietnam's development effort, especially in light of plans to further the development of electronic newspapers and internet services as a means of connecting Vietnam to the outside world". (SC)
Note: Section "Force for Change" are excerpts directly from the BBC article.
BBC. China's censored media answers back
RSF. Bing Dian reopened under tight control as new sanctions slapped on investigative journalists
The Economist. Deep Freeze: The authorities silence yet another inconvenient voice
ESWN. There Was A Man Named Liu Binyan
ESWN. The Li-Lu Statement On Freezing Point
IHT. Old guard in China takes aim at censors
BBC. Vietnam tightens media stranglehold
Asianews.It. Websites targeted, reporter prosecuted in media purge
RConversation. Journalism in Vietnam - more than meets the eye