The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned that eight people have been charged and several media outlets forced to shut down without cause after a crackdown organised by the Central Propaganda Department and government ministers.
Reporting from State-owned media and government over the exact number of violations and penalties handed down has varied and between two and as many as six media outlets could have been affected.
On May 21, Jinghua Newspaper, which is controlled by the Beijing Propaganda Department, reported that authorities charged eight people out of 11 suspects after a nationwide campaign designed to “prevent extortion by news reporting and contain the spread of fake news”. Jinghua reported that two media outlets were forced to shut down because they were allegedly “fake media outlets”.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China said in a statement that following the investigation 216 newspapers were accused of violating regulations, four publishing companies had their licences cancelled, and six media outlets were forced to shut down. The government body also reported that some 14,000 press cards were cancelled because the journalists holding them were alleged to have been involved in “fake news” reporting.
Both Jinghua and The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China have given no detail on the evidence or accusations of “fake news reporting”, or how media outlets and publishing companies had breached the regulations.
The IFJ said: “This is a typical example of a widespread crackdown that clearly highlights the distinct lack of press freedoms in China. While no fake report or extortion by the media should be tolerated, it is concerning that as a result of this investigation such a significant number of journalists have been deprived their right to work without any evidence being produced.
“The report emphasised that the role of media is to guide public opinion and promote socialism. However it did not explain the nature of the alleged ‘fake reports’ or ‘extortion’.”
The campaign to “prevent extortion by news reporting and contain the spread of fake news” was organised by the Central Propaganda Department and eight government ministries and offices.
The IFJ urges the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China, the Central Propaganda Department and the Beijing Propaganda Department to clearly outline the exact number of penalties and charges following the investigation and to produce clear evidence to show whether the decisions made have been in accordance with law and regulation.