The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.
Regarding the earthquake in Jiuzhaigou, Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, all media must use Xinhua News Agency copy as a guide. Use of photos or video that could lead to panic is prohibited. Pay attention to changes in online public opinion and promptly delete harmful information. (August 8, 2017) [Chinese]
Up to 100 people are feared dead after an earthquake of magnitude 6.5 rattled south-west China.
Seven people died and 88 were injured in the quake late on Tuesday, 21 of them seriously, the official Xinhua news agency said. It said all the dead were visitors to the area.
But China’s national commission for disaster reduction estimated that as many as 100 people may have died, based on 2010 census data of the mountainous, sparsely populated region.
More than 130,000 houses may be damaged, it added in a statement posted on its website, based on a preliminary analysis of the disaster in a remote region of Sichuan province.
In 2008, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck Wenchuan County, Sichuan, killing more than 80,000, leaving millions homeless, and leading to an estimated $125.6 billion in direct economic losses. As the five year anniversary of the deadly quake was approaching, a central propaganda directive asked for positive coverage and the avoidance of analysis focusing on “so-called aftereffects”—likely a reference to concerns that manmade activities may trigger quakes in the region. The 2008 quake may have been a factor in a landslide that hit the nearby village of Xinmo in June this year, leaving around 100 dead or missing. A Caixin report on villagers’ unheeded warnings before the disaster was the target of another directive.
In 2013, after a 7.0 magnitude quake hit Lushan County, Sichuan, propaganda authorities forbid “negative news, analysis, or commentary” on the seismic event. Subsequently, local propaganda departments in Sichuan and Beijing issued a host of reporting criteria, some of which mandated “heartfelt sorrow” and ordered an article focusing on needed relief efforts offline.
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.