Unlicensed Journalists Are no Laughing Matter, GAPP Says

China Media Project looks at one of the skits in the annual CCTV Spring Festival Gala, which may have been more subversive than intended:

Zhao, in his role as a simple peasant in the countryside, sits on the stoop outside his home, when two men — one with a video camera hoisted over his shoulder — come by introducing themselves as “online journalists.” They work for an imaginary Sohu.com program called “Seeking the Root of the Matter” (刨根问底). They want to interview Zhao’s character and make the interview available “to the whole world” via the Internet.

That may sound harmless enough. But the two reporters for “Seeking the Root of the Matter” would, according to administrative regulations in China, be denied press accreditation in the first place. And that means the entire fictional interview that provides the frame for the Zhao Benshan skit depicts an illegal act.

The Zhao Benshan skit — and its censorship gaffe — is particularly interesting in that it depicts something both increasingly commonplace in China — that is, information gathering and dissemination by unauthorized “citizen journalists,” or gongmin jizhe (公民记者), of all stripes — and increasingly vexing to CCP leaders who want, as best as possible, to control information at its source.


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