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 two directives were released on February 15, 2020.
Do not follow or report on novel coronavirus pneumonia infections among workers involved in the construction of Wuhan hospitals, drivers transporting life-protective supplies, funeral industry staff, etc. (February 15, 2020) [Chinese]
Concerning the dissemination of reports on the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic situation, ensure the following:
- Be mindful when adopting cartoonish personification or fandom language used by netizens. Avoid overly entertaining and jocular content.
- Do not follow or report on novel coronavirus pneumonia infections among workers involved in the construction of Wuhan hospitals, drivers transporting life-protective supplies, funeral industry staff, etc. (February 15, 2020) [Chinese]
These directives continue a steady stream of instructions aimed at shaping coverage of the COVID-19 epidemic over the course of February. The repeated order to avoid reports on infections among those closely involved in the fight against the virus followed public anger over the death of whistleblowing doctor Li Wenliang the previous week.
"Cartoonish personification" arose after state broadcaster CCTV set up livestreams of COVID hospital construction sites. The speed with which the new, dedicated hospitals were built was used, sometimes deceptively, to showcase the strength of the official response to the outbreak. A fan culture focused on favorite pieces of construction equipment soon began to emerge among viewers of the livestreams. CCTV created cartoonish emoji to celebrate such beloved characters as "Forky" the forklift and "Mud-barfy" the cement mixer, and People’s Daily’s Weibo account set up an "Excavators Idol Group." Several earlier directives, however, had ordered media outlets to maintain a solemn tone in keeping with the ongoing national crisis.
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.