The move follows days of negative reports in the media about the Olympic torch ceremony and the Tibet riots.
The headline in the pro-government China Daily newspaper [yesterday, 26th March 2008] reads: Students rap media ‘hegemony’. The strapline reads: "Western coverage of Tibet riots prompts online rebuttals, appeals."
The article encourages students to visit the website anti-cnn.com and report media bias
from leading global media organisations including CNN, the BBC and the
The report states: "They have set up a website, www.anti-cnn.com, to collect evidence of
what they believe is one-sided and untrue Western reporting, and posted
an open letter asking all Chinese to rise up against "the Western
Goebbels’ Nazi media", a reference to the Nazi-era propaganda minister
It continues: "Some Western media, in the name of freedom of the press, have long
relentlessly denigrated developing countries to achieve their hidden
objectives. They have gone to the extreme in mixing right with wrong,
black with white, and fabricating rumors," the website said.
Appearing to be registered with an employee of a leading Beijing university, the site has a chaotic design and surprisingly few contributors despite free front page promotion in one of China’s highest circulation government propaganda newspapers. The site does contain some interesting examples of alleged distorted media reporting on websites such as Times Online.
China is keen to present a controlled image in this Olympic year and it seems that the Chinese TV censor was working over-time on Monday. As I sat on holiday in Beijing watching BBC World and CNN, TV screens would go blank during reports about protests at the Olympic torch ceremony. CNN also had the images distorted during a live link from a reporter in Beijing.
Access to news sites was variable. The Guardian reported that the BBC site on Tuesday appeared to have been unblocked. On some occasions just the headline about a story about Tibet would be viewable on BBC.com/news, but you would be unable to access the full version. Accessing The Guardian presented similar challenges.
What’s interesting is not that China censors TV and Internet, but it’s the fact the government is encouraging foreign students to use the same tools it censors to to launch a counter-attack.
There is evidence to suggest many people in Beijing do believe in a ‘united China’ and support the government in its stated aim of improving living standards for the people in Tibet. But with total media censorship, you can never quite be sure if people are just speaking what they read.
Also how will the large news sites react to Chinese censorship as they look to expand audience reach in the Far East. Will the commercial goals of these news sites take priority over an ethical stance?
Finally, it’s very early days for the reporting of the Olympic games. The IOC has placed controls over what journalists can report in their blogs and we’ll have to wait and see whether the media will stick to to the rules.