Top Official Emphasizes Party's Dominance Over Media on Journalists' Day

November 24, 2009

In a November 2009 speech, top Party official Li Changchun marked Journalists' Day in China by reminding reporters of their obligations to serve the Party's interests. Because they remain subject to the control of the Communist Party, Chinese journalists and news media do not enjoy freedom of the press.

In a speech to mark Journalists' Day in China on November 8, 2009, top Communist Party official Li Changchun continued to emphasize the Party's dominance over the nation's news media, according to a transcript of Li's remarks published by People's Daily. Li, a member of the Party's Politburo Standing Committee, told journalists to "persist in strengthening and improving the Party's leadership over news propaganda work" and "persist in the Party's management of the media." He also said that "guiding power over news propaganda work" should remain "firmly in the hands of those devoted to the Party and the people." According to a November 8 Agence France-Presse article (via Google) on the speech, Li is fifth in the hierarchy of China's leaders and "is seen as the country's propaganda and ideology chief."

The word "Party" appears 48 times in the speech. Li refers to the Party in various contexts, including:

  • calling on journalists to follow the "correct" political orientation and to maintain complete consistency with the Party's Central Committee.
  • noting that in the past 60 years China's news media has played an important role in supporting the Party as it led China through socialist revolution and socialist modernization.

A journalist from the Chinese newspaper Southern Metropolitan Daily compared the speech with a similar one Li gave last year (available here via the People's Daily Web site) and found that language regarding citizens' rights to know, participate, express, and monitor had been downgraded, according to a November 9 posting on the China Media Project Web site.

News media in China do not enjoy freedom of the press in accordance with international human rights standards. Top Chinese officials continue to treat the news media as a tool of the Communist Party. In a major June 2008 speech on the role of the news media, President and Party General Secretary Hu Jintao said journalists should "promote the development of the causes of the Party and the state" and that their "first priority" is to "correctly guide public opinion." The Party's Central Propaganda Department issues frequent directives informing publishers and editors what stories can and cannot be covered and how to cover certain topics. Recent examples include two June 2009 directives. One of the directives ordered media not to criticize a government plan to require the "pre-installation" of filtering software on all computers sold in China. The other banned commenting on the Iranian government's response to unrest following Iran's June 12 presidential election. Propaganda officials such as Li also set broad propaganda goals for the media. In January, Li outlined a propaganda agenda for the year that focuses on safeguarding economic development and social stability.

For more information on the Party and government's control over the Chinese domestic news media and propaganda directives from the past year, see Section II—Freedom of Expression (pp. 50–57) of the CECC 2009 Annual Report.