Minitrue Diary, February 3, 2020: Harmful Content, Sourcing, and Foreign Aid Amid Epidemic

CDT has recently acquired and verified a collection of directives issued by central Party authorities to at the beginning of this year. These directives were issued on an almost daily basis in early 2020, and we will be posting them over the coming weeks. The following four directives were released on February 3, 2020.

Today’s (February 3) editorial broadcast meeting is suspended. (February 3, 2020) [Chinese]

All departments must strengthen inspection and clean-up of illegal and harmful content involving the epidemic situation. Launch inspections focused on forums, interactive sections etc., and promptly find and clean up harmful content exaggerating the epidemic situation, attacking the government, and so on; carry out management duties, increase measures like keyword filtering, and strictly guard against the spread of harmful content; avoid secondary waves of public sentiment caused by mishandling; strengthen verification of news content and commentary related to the virus and epidemic; and ensure that no negative content appears in key livestreams. (February 3, 2020) [Chinese]

Reports on the epidemic of pneumonia caused by novel infections require strict guidance, and must follow information from authoritative departments. Strictly regulate sourcing, strictly prohibit independent newsgathering in violation of the rules, and strictly prohibit the use of non-standard sources, especially self media content. Strictly prohibit citation of foreign media reports unless in accordance with unified arrangements. When reposting authoritative reports, do not twist their original intention, or use "clickbait" headlines. Do not use pop-ups or push alerts for material from non-standard sources, unverified information, or content that could have negative impact. (February 3, 2020) [Chinese]

Regarding propaganda reports on the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic situation:
1. Reports on foreign assistance with prevention and control materials should be cautious and low-key. In particular, don’t play up our mobilization of global purchases of such materials.
2. Brief reports on local extensions of the Spring Festival holiday period are permissible, but do not aggregate or compare, and do not link to, hype, or comment on the effects on economic development.
3. Do not play up or comment on the effects of the epidemic on economic development, and resolutely prevent use of the epidemic to express pessimistic views about China’s economy. (February 3, 2020) [Chinese]

These instructions continue a stream of directives aiming to guide media content in the new climate after the lockdown of Wuhan on January 23: muting the celebratory tone surrounding the recent Spring Festival; downplaying concerns about the outbreak’s economic impact; controlling the temperature about related external developments such as WHO meetings, Russia’s closure of its land border with China, and the evacuation of the U.S. consulate in Wuhan; and reining in content deemed likely to fuel rumor or panic.

The fourth directive’s guidance on coverage of foreign assistance, which followed an earlier temporary bar on reporting aid from the International Red Cross and Belarus, is notable in light of China’s later campaign of "mask diplomacy." The Economist’s Chaguan columnist, examining Beijing’s later triumphalism last week, noted that "early on, foreign countries were asked to send medical aid to China without any publicity, and complied. Later, when they sought to buy Chinese ventilators for their own patients, they were told that the price included public praise for China."

真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.

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