Il presidente cinese Xi Jinping (LaPresse)

Censorship: China tightens information flow again

The internet has opened a brand-new universe to humanity. Not only does it open new avenues of economic opportunity, but it also allows for unending creativity and innovation. It can improve manifold the quality of human life and is fundamental in allowing individuals to broaden their horizons; to form educated opinions and draw logical and reasonable conclusions. Several countries, the UN etc have forthrightly declared that the access to the internet services should be a part of human rights. Therefore, restricting access to the internet would be violating freedom of expression and access to information guaranteed by international laws.

China however does not shy away from taking this action in order to further its own interests. The Chinese government has time and again created controversies with international internet and content production companies and passed a series of laws and rules that curb the individual’s right to information. In a further addition to the list of measures taken in the past, The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) recently warned service providers to follow the latest version of the recently published “List of sources of Internet News Information” before reprinting news information with the caveat that those that are in violation and reprint beyond the scope of this list will be punished in accordance with the laws and regulations

This basically means that the whole of China has access to or should read or repost news only from relevant listed websites. The list contains only 1358 news source outlets. This comprises news websites, central news units, industry media, local news, local news units and government dispatch platforms. The report also declares that Illegal collection of news by individuals and illegal resharing (“backdoor news”) will be resolutely dealt with and that the authorities would deal with the “master-switch” of information dissemination at source.

The criteria for “Sources of Internet News Information” are not yet clear. It is important to note that Caixin has been excluded from the list. Caixin is a large privately owned news company in china. Caixin’s Media President Hu Shuli posted a cryptic Weibo post thought to be aimed at President Xi Jinping, the Chinese president. The post was taken down in a short while and not so surprisingly Caixin’s name was excluded from the list. It is anyone’s guess at this point how and why the criteria for the “List of sources for Internet information” was decided and what went into making this list.

In the next step the CAC, the government body that regulates the internet in China, will implement dynamic management through the entire process of the list of sources using the “Addition and Removal” method. Those that meet the requirements will be added in a timely fashion and those that do not and have information security liability accident are deemed in violation of the law will be summarily “frozen” or entirely removed. This makes it possible for the Chinese administration to restrict the flow of information at any given point.

These recent laws under the guise of cyber control measures are aimed at curtailing information about and critical to the Chinese communist party. It’s a measure that would damage the relationship of the press with china and deter foreign journalists, human rights defenders from doing their jobs. It is essential for the International community continue to pressure the Chinese Government to withdraw the measures that restrict the free flow of information.