“Censorship is no secret in China,
but before people felt 'it's nothing to do with me',” Li said. “Now
people feel that 'it is to do with me, my freedom and my freedom of expression.
A change is underway, and that's the real meaning of this incident.”
reached at Chinese newspaper that defied authorities
Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY1:08a.m. EST January 10, 2013
Impact of journalists'
battle could be wide-reaching within China.
BEIJING – A tentative deal reached
Wednesday between propaganda officials and journalists at a rebellious
newspaper ended a standoff and will allow Southern Weekend to print its weekly edition on
Thursday as normal.
Even as tensions
calmed, China analysts said the impact of the journalists' battle against state
censorship would be wide-reaching within China.
control is lessened, we will see more cases like Southern Weekend,”
predicted Hu Yong, a journalism professor at Peking University.
Officials and editors
reached an agreement that requires the government to stop directly censoring
content prior to publication and not to punish the journalists who walked off
the job, the Associated Press reported.
About 200 editors and
journalists gathered until early Wednesday morning at the Beijing News — formerly co-owned by the Southern
Media Group, which publishes Southern
Weekend — to protest
censorship, said an editor and a journalist who requested anonymity for fear of
reprisal from the government.
Dai Zigeng, the
publisher of the Beijing News,
a popular tabloid in the Chinese capital, offered to resign after refusing to
run a critical editorial submitted from the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper.
Pictures of the
gathering at Beijing News circulated online on China's Twitter
equivalents, and were quickly deleted by censors. Several other newspapers ran
the mandatory editorial Tuesday with disclaimers highlighting it did not
reflect their views. The Beijing
News ran it Wednesday, but
not in a prominent position.
The opposition to
Communist Party censorship, which began with protests over the government's
wholesale rewriting of Southern
Weekend's 2013 new year
editorial, has taken on “such a big dimension, there will be more cases as
there is good support from fellow journalists,” Hu said. “It is a
protest against censorship.”
If Southern Weekend can come out as normal, without being
subjected to the tougher controls by Guangdong provincial authorities that its
journalists have endured since spring 2012, “that would be a small,
limited victory, ” said David Bandurski, a researcher at the University of Hong
Kong's China Media Project.
“It would also be
a small victory for China's media, as it sets a precedent and sends a message
to officials that they can't change the rules and insert themselves in the
editorial process,” Bandurski said. “They may be less likely to
encroach on the space that the media does have, or face the clear risk of
blowback,” as in this case of these protests.
The widespread support
for Southern Weekend represents a significant social
change, said Li Datong, a Chinese journalist and former editor of a newspaper
supplement closed by authorities.
“This protest has
had definite social effect, as the whole society now supports Southern Weekend, even
actresses pay attention to this. The concept of democracy is spreading,”
Earlier this week, Yao
Chen and Li Bingbing posted support on China's Twitter equivalent, while
360buy, one of China's largest online electronics retailer, posted an
advertisement hinting at strong support for the paper.
“Censorship is no
secret in China, but before people felt 'it's nothing to do with me',” Li said.
“Now people feel that 'it is to do with me, my freedom and my freedom of
expression. A change is underway, and that's the real meaning of this
The power of China's
media remains small in the face of a powerful propaganda bureaucracy, said Li,
who doubted Southern Weekend would be able to publish without prior
censorship by the government.
“They won't leave
any publication alone,” he said. But the possible resignation of Dai
Zigeng is “very important. This incident is over, but there will be more
incidents in future as people like Dai feel the current system cannot continue
as it is.”