The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.
Notice from the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission on account of a recent series of serious rule violations and grave errors by The Paper, which had an odious effect on society. In accordance with relevant administrative provisions, The Paper is suspended from the registry of [approved] Internet news and information sources for 30 days from 8 a.m. on January 21 to 8 a.m. on February 20. During the suspension period, internet news providers may not republish news from The Paper. Any republication in violation of this rule will immediately be dealt with in accordance with the law and regulations. At the same time, all websites please learn from this example, and strictly enforce and strengthen direction and management. (January 20, 2019) [Chinese]
Reporting separately on the notice on Monday, Hong Kong’s Apple Daily cited unidentified sources’ suggestion that "state media 2.0" news site The Paper had earned this punishment by publishing the first confirmation of the death of former State Council spokesperson Yuan Mu. Its report was widely cited, but soon removed. Yuan gained global notoriety in the wake of the June 4, 1989 crackdown for his statements downplaying casualties. An earlier directive on December 17 warned websites to "only republish information [on Yuan’s death] from authoritative media such as Xinhua and People’s Daily. Delete all other information without exception, and remove harmful messages."
Several previous directives have targeted individual articles from The Paper. Republication bans are a potent weapon against news organizations, as syndication of original news content is an important revenue stream for those licensed to produce it. In practice, many unlicensed outlets supplement syndicated content with original content in defiance of these restrictions: as an editor commented last year in a survey of China’s "Total Censorship Era" from Initium Media, translated by CDT:
Mainland governance of internet news media comes in two types: news and non-news. Non-news media has no power to interview. That is, they can’t create original news content, but only aggregate news content. They can only reprint news from sources that can originate it. This so-called aptitude to create news means having a “whitelist.” But actually, a lot of WeChat public accounts and web portals do news. They’re all hitting the ball at the sideline, operating quasi-legally, and no one’s catching the ball. But if they want to catch you, they have a “legal basis” for doing so. And over the past two years, the more traffic a newsperson gets, the tighter are the reins. [Source]
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.