Freedom of the Press

Chinese government style:

Editor’s note: Google announced this week that it would move its Chinese search engine to Hong Kong and stop censoring search results to suit China’s leaders. In China, the government has sought to control how Chinese media portray Google’s decision. Below we reprint the government’s instructions to domestic news Web sites. The instructions were obtained and translated by China Digital Times, a bilingual aggregator of news and analysis run by the Berkeley China Internet Project.

All chief editors and managers:

Google has officially announced its withdrawal from the China market. This is a high-impact incident. It has triggered netizens’ discussions which are not limited to a commercial level. Therefore please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period:

A. News section:

1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources.

2. Reposting must not change title.

3. News recommendations should refer to Central government main media websites.

4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting.

5. Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden.

6. Carefully manage the commentary posts under news items.

B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:

1. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic.

2. Interactive sections do not recommend this topic, do not place this topic and related comments at the top.

3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.

4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy.

5. On topics related to Google, carefully manage the information in exchanges, comments and other interactive sessions.

6. Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.

We ask the Monitoring and Control Group to immediately follow up monitoring and control actions along the above directions; once any problems are discovered, please communicate with respected sessions in a timely manner.

Addition[al] guidelines:

— Do not participate in and report Google’s information/press releases.

— Do not report about Google exerting pressure on our country via people or events.

— Related reports need to put [our story/perspective/information] in the center, do not provide materials for Google to attack relevant policies of our country.

— Use talking points about Google withdrawing from China published by relevant departments.

[Emphasis added]

At the end of the day, it is clear that Google was not able to change China. For four years, instead, China changed Google. Now that Google has partly left China, the Chinese government will continue to behave as they always have. The press is not free. Speech is not free. These are important things to keep in mind whenever discussing how the US or other Western governments and businesses should relate to the Chinese government.

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