CDT has recently acquired and verified a collection of propaganda directives issued by central Party authorities to state media 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 directive was released on February 4, 2020.
1. When completing scheduling and inspection work for entertainment programs, strengthen final checks on content aimed at amusement. Decisively replace content and advertisements that are clearly at odds with the overall tone.
2. In response to the recent issue of false content appearing because some media reproduced incorrect information found online, please strengthen content inspection and checks, and rigorously carry out categorization and censorship. Uphold the principles of favoring our own content and programming, and of cautiously selecting, meticulously verifying, and multi-dimensionally differentiating information sourced from elsewhere, to ensure truth and accuracy. (February 4, 2020) [Chinese]
This directive was issued as China was in the grips of the initial novel coronavirus outbreak, and Wuhan and other cities were on a strict lockdown. Its wording echoes earlier directives targeting “overly upbeat content” as the government took measures to limit celebratory content about the Spring Festival in the midst of the intensifying health crisis. A string of propaganda directives during this period restricted independent reporting and commentary on the spread of the virus as well. Residents of Wuhan, low-level officials, and the general public wrote about their frustrations and anger at the government’s handling of the outbreak, and quickly had their posts censored. The government was quick to label unofficial sources of information as “rumor” or “false content”; on February 4, Dr. Li Wenliang, who was one of eight medical personnel disciplined for “spreading rumors” about the virus, was in the hospital after being infected by it himself. See all propaganda directives about the coronavirus issued since early January.
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.