Newsweek International Reports on Communist Party Central Propaganda Department Action Against Publishers

August 1, 2005

Liu Yunshan, head of the Communist Party Central Propaganda Department (CPD), told officials at an April 2005 meeting that "The South has a newspaper that disgusts a lot of officials in the North, and the North has a paper that disgusts a lot of officials in the South," reports the June 27 international edition of Newsweek. According to the Newsweek source, the "northern paper" is the Beijing News, an editor of which told Newsweek that so many "petty cadres" have traveled to Beijing to complain about the paper that they are now under "heavy" pressure to conform with new restrictions on "extra-territorial" investigative reporting. This term describes a practice in which a newspaper from one geographic area publishes critical investigative reports about matters that officials in another area have prevented their local news media from reporting.

Liu Yunshan's April speech elaborated on a Party decree known as Document Number 16, according to Newsweek. The Party's General Office released Document Number 16 to ministry and provincial officials in late 2004; CPD staff began sending interpretations of the Document to senior editors in late April 2005. Newsweek's sources among Chinese editors said that Document Number 16 is the source of the Party's restrictions on "extra-territorial" (yidi) reporting.

The Newsweek report said that the CPD has audited several media organizations in recent months, instructing at least one to avoid any hard-hitting watchdog stories. The CPD has also assigned censors to the Southern Group, which is one parent of the Beijing News and also publishes Southern Weekend and Southern Metropolitan Daily. Both the latter newspapers are known for testing China's censors with their unusually frank and in-depth investigative reports. A source at China Newsweek, which is not affiliated with the U.S. newsmagazine, also told Newsweek that the CPD has been keeping much closer watch on it.