Chinese Editors, and a Web Site, Detail Censors’ Hidden Hand

The Washington Post reports on censorship of Chinese media, and the journalists who are fighting back. It also mentions the work CDT has done to translate the censorship instructions, which we call, “Directives from the Ministry of Truth“:

Normally, the government’s relentless effort to control information plays out behind the scenes. But an aggressive news Web site called China Digital Times, based out of Berkeley, Calif., and run by Xiao Qiang, a longtime human rights activist, has begun publicly exposing the practice by publishing the official weekly directives and guidelines to the print media from the government’s main censorship organs.

Moreover, several editors and journalists have begun pushing back. Spurred by the growing popular demand for more openness, and with the Internet and microblogs offering more unfettered information, they are testing the boundaries of what is permissible. Some editors and reporters, in interviews, spoke candidly, albeit cautiously, about how censorship works in practice, and the growing competing pressures they face between a public that wants the truth and the censors who want to manipulate it.

The main censorship organs are the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department and the State Council Information Office, among others. Together, the various agencies involved in censorship are known derisively among Chinese journalists as the “Ministry of Truth,” a reference to George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” about a fictitious totalitarian state that controls the population by falsifying history.

Several editors and journalists who were contacted said that they had not seen the specific directives but that the guidelines described by the China Digital Times Web site closely followed what they have been told.

The list of do’s and don’ts opens a window on how the party and government pay close attention to even the most seemingly routine news stories and how they might affect Chinese opinion.