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September 25, 2006 1:34 am

Xinhua ignores critics of new media rules

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An attempt by China’s Xinhua news agency to tighten controls on foreign rivals has sparked fierce criticism abroad and rumbles of discontent at home – but no trace of such negativism finds its way into the agency’s own reports.

While international agencies such as Reuters have covered Beijing’s defence of the new rules and opposition to them from western governments, media freedom groups and the American Chamber of Commerce, Xinhua’s reportage has remained one-sided.

“Internet users resolutely support Xinhua’s ‘management measures for news and information dissemination by foreign news agencies within China’,” the agency said in one of its few articles on the topic.

Xinhua’s reluctance to report criticism is hardly an aberration; the agency is also a government propaganda organ used to establish a “correct line” on sensitive issues for other state media to follow.

The monotone coverage highlights the contradiction between Xinhua’s propaganda role and its ambitions to become an internationally competitive provider of news and economic data.

It is also unlikely to silence suggestions that the new rules, which ban foreign agencies from contact with their local customers and subject them to censorship, are aimed at giving Xinhua control of China’s multi-million dollar market in financial news and information.

The Xinhua story touting support of internet users failed to name even one supportive individual or website.

Another story claimed “people in China’s news sector” believed the new regime would promote “healthy and orderly” news distribution – but quoted only a few media academics to back up its headline.

Public comments about the new rules posted on Xinhua’s website are indeed uniformly positive, but such unanimity is easily explained: all contributions have to pass a content check. Negative views do not make it on to the site.

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