China has ordered the halting of news reporting by online media. Companies in the online and mobile sectors have been told to disband their reporting teams and instead carry only news content supplied by state-controlled media firms.
The order is understood to have come from the Cyberspace Administration of China. Firms that received identically worded letters include Tencent, Sohu, Sina and NetEase, according to a report by Bloomberg.
State-owned publication The Paper reported Sunday that unregulated original news has “seriously violated” internet news policy and has had “huge negative effects.”
The move represents yet another measure to limit freedom of the press and opinion in the world’s most populous country. Earlier this month the CAS told China’s online media that they would not be allowed to use social media as sources for their stories unless items were verified with state sources.
In February this year, China’s President Xi Jinping toured state media and explained that they exist to serve the Communist Party. He said “the media bears the Party surname,” and must “speak for the Party and its propositions and protect the Party’s authority and unity.”
China already operates wide-ranging controls over traditional media and prevents the direct operation within China of many foreign media operations. It also employs thousands of staff to police social media.
Media regulators have spent recent years trying to catch up with changing technology and extending their reach into the newer, more popular and more mobile forms of communication.
Recent crackdowns have limited the import of foreign content on China’s streaming video platforms, increased the censorship burden on imported series for online media — and have largely banned foreign formats from being broadcast by TV channels in primetime slots.
Commentators argue that the reasons for China’s growing centralization of media and information include fear of dissent and disunity sparked by economic slowdown, as well as the silencing of political opponents ahead of the 2017 Communist Party congress.