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 six directives were released on February 21, 2020.
This WeChat article, posted by Zeng Xiangmin and Liu Siqi of the Television School, Communication University of China, was titled “Epidemic reporting pay attention to the ‘four avoidances’” and included an explanation of four issues or approaches to avoid when reporting on coronavirus in order to “make media reports play a positive guiding role”:
First, avoid distortion of “solution schemes. Second, avoid sensationalizing “heartwarming stories.” Third, avoid positive expressions being stiff. Fourth, avoid insufficient professional interpretation.
Regarding novel coronavirus pneumonia infections at certain prisons in Hubei, Shandong, and Zhejiang, strictly standardize sourcing and give low-key treatment. If reporting, use information published by the three provinces and Ministry of Justice as standard, and do not carry out independent newsgathering, reporting, or commentary. Do not create misleading or provocative headlines, step up management of posts and comments, take strict precautions against related sensationalism, and promptly find and delete harmful content that opportunistically attacks our system. (February 21, 2020) [Chinese]
In February, China reported hundreds of coronavirus cases at prisons around the country.
Regarding Malaysia’s plans to bar entry to all Chinese citizens, report in a low-key manner if the Malaysian side formally announces these measures. Do not interpret, do not comment, do not draw connections with the special foreign ministers’ meeting, and do not quote foreign media. Promptly handle negative content. (February 21, 2020) [Chinese]
As the coronavirus outbreak spread in China in February, several countries imposed bans on travelers from China. On February 10, Malaysia issued a travel order that non-residents who had been in Hubei, Zhejiang, or Jiangsu Provinces in the past 14 days could not enter the country. Another censorship order the previous day required media to “take a low-key approach” to Russia’s travel ban on Chinese citizens. In late February, Foreign Minister Wang Yi traveled to Laos to meet with his counterparts from ASEAN, where the discussion focused on handling the coronavirus outbreak. A propaganda directive on January 23 emphasized that his trip should be covered with “a low profile.”
Regarding reports related to the novel coronavirus pneumonia, stop using expressions such as “X days of successive decline [of confirmed cases],” to avoid raising expectations. (February 21, 2020) [Chinese]
In late February, China’s coronavirus cases began to decline as they rose dramatically in other countries. The initial decline was partially due to new methods used in China to count daily cases.
February 23 would mark one month since Wuhan imposed a strict lockdown on travel in and out of the city, and on residents leaving their homes. When the lockdown was first imposed, a censorship directive banned reporters from traveling to the city, though several managed to report from there while local residents also recorded their own personal accounts, notably writer Fang Fang, who published a book of her diary during lockdown.
These directives are part of an almost daily stream of such orders throughout January and February limiting reporting on various aspects of the coronavirus outbreak.
If reporting on the end of state custody of Anbang Group, do so objectively and appropriately in strict accordance with authoritative information from departments such as the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, and information published by the Dajia Insurance Group. Do not hype sensitive information such as reports on Wu Xiaohui, industrial disputes, operational data, and so on. Do not create retrospective or conjectural reports, and do not gather and cook up hype about past events. (February 21, 2020) [Chinese]
The Chinese government took over custody of Anbang Group insurance company in 2018 after its chairman Wu Xiaohui was sentenced to 18 years in prison on fundraising fraud and embezzlement charges. Before it was released from state custody, a new entity, Dajia Insurance Group, was created to take over Anbang’s life- and pension-insurance units. After her son’s arrest, Wu’s mother took to Twitter and WeChat to make allegations of corruption related to Anbang and to demand the right to visit her son in prison.
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.