China or­ders me­dia gi­ant Sina to ‘im­prove cen­sor­ship’ in crack­down

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

China’s gov­ern­ment has threat­ened to shut down Sina, one of the coun­try’s most popular news web­sites un­less it “im­proves cen­sor­ship,” state me­dia re­ported, in a rare public glimpse into con­trols over the press.

The on­line por­tal “dis­torted news facts, vi­o­lated moral­ity and en­gaged in me­dia hype,” the of­fi­cial Xin­hua news agency on Satur­day cited the Cy­berspace Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China (CAC) as say­ing.

The CAC will “se­ri­ously” pun­ish Sina, with pos­si­ble mea­sures in­clud­ing “a com­plete shut down of its In­ter­net news ser­vices,” Xin­hua added.

CAC of­fi­cials added that “cen­sor­ship of user ac­counts has been poor,” Xin­hua said, in a likely ref­er­ence to Sina Weibo, a ser­vice sim­i­lar to Twit­ter which has hun­dreds of mil­lions of reg­is­tered users in China.

The re­port did not pro­vide specifics on which of Sina’s news of­fer­ings had fallen foul of cen­sors, but said the CAC ac­cused Sina of spread­ing “il­le­gal in­for­ma­tion re­lated to ru­mors, vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ism,” and “ad­vo­ca­tion of here­sies.”

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have in the past used “heresy” to re­fer to con­tent re­lated to banned re­li­gious groups, such as the Falun Gong.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment gen­er­ally op­er­ates its con­trol over me­dia be­hind the scenes, with se­cret di­rec­tives on how to re­port sto­ries. Jour­nal­ists who dis­obey or leak the or­ders can be pun­ished.

Con­trols have tight­ened un­der China’s cur­rent Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. The France-based group Re­porters With­out Bor­ders ranked China 175 out of 180 coun­tries in its 2014 world­wide in­dex of press free­dom.

“Chi­nese web gi­ant Sina will face sus­pen­sion of its In­ter­net news ser­vices if it fails to im­prove cen­sor­ship,” Com­mu­nist Party mouth­piece the Peo­ple’s Daily wrote on Twit­ter, a site which is blocked by Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties.

China in 2013 launched a crack­down on “on­line ru­mors,” with sev­eral peo­ple post­ing con­tent deemed un­true jailed in a cam­paign seen as an at­tempt to rein in on­line de­bate on mi­croblog­ging ser­vices.

The cam­paign prompted a num­ber of prom­i­nent gov­ern­ment crit­ics to quit mi­croblog­ging or tone down their com­ments, and was blamed for a drop in Sina Weibo use.

Sina’s por­tal is the fourth most vis­ited web­site in China, ac­cord­ing to rank­ing ser­vice Alexa. Nei­ther Sina nor CAC could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment on Sun­day.

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