The following examples of censorship instructions, issued to the media and/or Internet companies by various central (and sometimes local) government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to those instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.” CDT has collected the selections we translate here from a variety of sources and has checked them against official Chinese media reports to confirm their implementation.
Xiao Qiang: Exposing the “Directives from the Ministry of Truth”
July 6, 2010
In the wake of ever-increasing dissatisfaction with and resistance against the control of information in the media and Internet worlds, at the same time the channels and transmission methods of emerging social media outlets, in this age of the Internet, have become increasingly broad. This is particularly true of microblogs, which now allow formerly secret propaganda directives to be more and more widely known amongst Internet users.
Allow me to select some items from the “Ministry of Truth directives” of June and examine their content. Of course, some of them are political in nature, such as the prohibition on reporting or reposting stories about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Japan. Others say not to report or follow domestic industrial strikes. Still others require all websites to clean up content harmful to party and government leaders. What is here called “harmful content” primarily refers to rumors and doggerel that, from the perspective of the Central Propaganda Bureau, contain information that damages the image of party and government leaders.
The prohibitions, however, also often cover society news, such as the order not to report on cell phone cheating during the gaokao (college entrance examinations). There is also the directive against reports on keeping in good health, and a requirement to use designated specialists from the Health Department for interviews if reports are made. We have even more absurd cases, including a prohibition against using the pretext of the World Cup to make fun of football in China.
From these directives, the truth of the matter is that the more content becomes off limits to reports or emphasis from media outlets, the more this content becomes a subject of feverish discussion and sharing online. Netizens have their own source channels and ways to get at information. Some of them are able to get over the Great Firewall, others are good at transmitting news. They have their own parody (ègǎo 惡搞), humor, and music. By comparison, traditional media outlets and large websites under the strict control of the Central Propaganda Bureau are not able to report, and their front pages are often filled with whitewashed terms, and hackneyed so-called “main melody”.
This comparison shows that traditional media outlets and large websites are covered with a veneer of terms and stale motifs. Are they really meant for the eyes of netizens or are they just for the censors themselves to see?
In the Internet age, it seems more and more to be the latter.
Do not report the story “Accident at Overseas Chinese Amusement Park in Shenzhen”
July 5, 2010
Accurately report the story “Bus in Wuxi, Jiangsu catches fire”
July 5, 2010
Regarding the incident of a bus catching fire in Wuxi, Jiangsu, websites are not permitted to send people there to conduct interviews. Only use copy circulated from Xinhua. Do include it among the headlining stories, and do not hype it. So ordered.
The books San shi nian he dong (Thirty Years on the East Bank) and Si shou lian tan (Four Hands Playing Together) are to be removed from lists.
July 4, 2010
Do not report the story “Student from school in Zhaoqing, Guangdong hangs self.”
June 30, 2010
For the time being, do not report on the incident of a student hanging himself in his room at Ronghe School, Zhaoqing School District, Guangdong.
Do not report “Signatures gathered against ‘letter of sanction issued by Chongqing’s Chen bao (Morning Report), threatening reporters’”; accurately report on the “integration of telecommunications networks”
June 30, 2010
1) Today on the Internet there was a coordinated post of a draft story exposing Chongqing’s Chenbao (Morning Report), entitled “Signatures gathered against ‘letter of sanction issued by Chongqing’s Chen bao (Morning Report), threatening reporters.’” Do not report on this.
2) Recent events related to the integration of telecommunications networks are intensely political. Maintain a high level of sensitivity, and all outlets in all cases must use Xinhua reports as the standard. Carefully publish reports.
Delete all reports related to the strike at Fengtian in Guangzhou
June 24, 2010
The book Tianzhu: Zangren chuanqi (Heavenly Pearl: The Story of a Tibetan) must be removed from shelves
June 23, 2010
Do not report on the exchange rate reform; in all cases use copy circulated from Xinhua
July 22, 2010
Anniversary of July 5th Incident: Related reports are forbidden, use circulated copy for other reports.
July 22, 2010
A report in Mingbao (Morning Report) says that in recent days all media outlets in Xinjiang have continually received notices from higher levels that forbid them from reporting anything related to the “Anniversary of July 5th.” Even news such as the recent disturbances in Pakistan must in all cases use copy from Xinhua as the standard.
Do not hype story “The case against Karma Sandrup for stealing from tombs”
June 22, 2010
背景资料: 人权观察敦促中国：撤消指控藏人环保慈善家 家人受到监禁之后，嘎玛桑珠又陷冤案
译者：Buxoro 时间：2010年6月10日 来源：人权观察网站 （纽约）——人权观察今天指出，中国政府应立即释放两位因在家乡建立环保组织而以莫须有的罪名被关押的藏人环保人士，并应立即撤消对他们的兄弟嘎玛桑珠的指控，他曾在被捕之前对其兄弟们的拘捕表示抗议。这两位环保人士，其美郎加和仁青桑珠，自2009年8月在西藏被拘留至今。著名藏人环保人士，慈善家嘎玛桑珠，是中国最成功的藏人艺术收藏家之一，也是备受嘉奖的三江源生态环境保护协会创始人。在寻求他兄弟们释放的同时，本人也于2010年1月3日被捕，原因为发生在1998年的一起盗掘古墓葬案。未经法院解释，原定于6月1日的庭审在最后时分推迟，新的日期还未确定。人权观察的亚洲部主任索菲?理查德森说，“这是对中国政府的检验。这些人代表了政府所希望看到的现代藏人——经济上成功，只去支持非政治化的，被认可的文化及环境等事业——但即使是这样的人，也被当作罪犯。”嘎玛桑珠，全名如凯?嘎玛桑珠，是中国最大的私人古董收藏家之一，同时经营藏人艺术品，人称“天珠王”，拥有对这一藏人传统宝物无与伦比的收藏。2006年《南方周末》曾发专文介绍嘎玛桑珠。2009年由中国记者刘鉴强所著的传记（《天珠》）也得到官方的新华社的好评。在2000年代中期，嘎玛桑珠赞助的环保组织，青海三江源生态环境保护协会，响应中国政府的号召，为保护青藏?
In China, several political bodies are in charge of Internet content control. At the highest level, there is the Central Propaganda Department, which ensures that media and cultural content follows the official line as mandated by the CCP. Then there is the State Council Information Office (SCIO), which has established “Internet Affairs Bureau” to oversee all Websites that publish news, including the official sites of news organizations as well as independent sites that post news content.
This “Internet Affairs Bureau,” sent out very specific instructions to all large news websites daily, and often multiple times per day. Those instructions do not always mean that related contents are completely banned online, but they instruct websites to highlight or suppress certain type of opinions or information in a very detailed manner.
Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to those instructions, as well as other type of censorship orders to media and websites, as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.” TheMinistry of Truth (or Minitrue, in Newspeak) is one of the four ministries that govern Oceania in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the Chinese blogosphere, it is the online lingo for the Central Propaganda Department and generally speaking, all other subordinate propaganda agencies including Internet supervision departments.
Today, it’s been said that news does not break, it tweets. For the officials in the the Ministry of Truth, the news is that their supposedly confidential instructions get tweeted as well.