“The party’s capability to control us is weakening” (共产党控制我们的能力越来越弱), the BBC’s Mandarin website quotes a state media editor, based on an article by the Financial Times.
There had been consequences for a number of news people, when the party tried to regain control over coverage on the Wenzhou bullet train crash, the article says. Wang Qinglei (王青雷), a CCTV reporter, had been suspended from work after doubting China’s development pattern and praising those who challenged media censorship in a CCTV program. But even before the Wenzhou crash had drawn attention to censorship and the challenges it faced, the media had been in the process of becoming a force for change.
The FT report quotes Guangzhou Zhongshan University journalism professor Zhang Zhi’an (张志安) with an estimate that there were currently some 500 investigative journalists (调查记者) in China. Many students wanted to take the same path, Zhang said.
The article also points out the role of social media (社交媒体). Sina Weibo alone, a microblogging platform similar to Twitter, had some 140 million users, and news the authorities wanted to hide spreaded quickly all the same. Reporters and editors who had been harmonized, i. e. muzzled, used Sina Weibo to speak out. A generational change was also a factor, as both in the traditional and online media industries, twenty- to thirty-year-old news people were now reaching relatively senior positions.
In total, the Financial Times quoted two professional news persons, and two journalism professors. This blogger believes that the quotes – and the FT article as a whole – express wishful thinking to quite an extent, but that to an extent hard to quantify, the policies which demand censorship seem to have faced a deteriorating environment after the Wenzhou accident. Some Chinese nationals who used to be be either cynical about or disinterested in politics have been unusually angry about the censorship measures taken on July 29 this year.
Reportedly, there had been censorship notifications from the propaganda department to journalists soon after the Wenzhou accident, too, but the one of July 29 was apparently final.