Censorship is the repression of information and ideas that flow from society. The Communist Party of China (CPC) is the known body that mandates censorship in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (Guo & Feng, 2012). In this regard, China offers a captivating case study for students, particularly on the relations between political processes, actors, and organizations. Currently, the People’s Republic of China is apprehensive with issues of supremacy, political and economic value, including authority and legitimacy that focus on leadership (King, Pan, & Roberts, 2013).
Since communication processes affect these matters, it is not surprising that the state devotes considerable attention to the operation of the media. Additionally, the international websites, chat rooms, discussion groups, and newspapers published outside of China provide an immense amount on the need to be pessimistic. According to MacKinnon (2008), there has been a trend in the dismissal the Chinese journalists, beating them, or imprisoning them. This matter follows the forced closure of the newspapers because the media have argued against the philosophical position of the Great Firewall that blocks access to the World Wide Web for the information-starved Chinese. For instance, critics were behind Southern Weekend in 2001 for publishing detrimental reports to the government as such a publication led to the dismissal of the chief editor (Shirk, 2007).
Forms of Censorship
However, there are implications that the media are prepared to challenge the central censorships over their work following the recent reports that suggest the outbreak of a guerilla war between journalists and the communists. As a result, thirteen veterans of politics and propaganda in China (PPC) responded by publishing a letter (Tai, 2014). In the correspondence, the leaders called for easing of censorship and new laws to protect press freedom. This paper discusses censorship in the mass media sector and the possible solutions for the control, focusing on all the major forms of suppression in the mass media
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One of the forms of Censorship witnessed in China is political censorship. This type is viewed as an initiative to ensure the continued rule of the Communist Party (Lorentzen, 2014). In addition, it helps to avoid unapproved reformists from organizing their activities and disseminating their ideas. Furthermore, the censorship inhibits the Chinese people from learning more about the past and current problems facing the CP, which is likely to spur anti-government rebellion (Tai, 2014). In the same context, measures such as hindering access to websites of foreign governments may deny the citizens access to substitute governance forms. The Chinese Internet politics follows a different ideology that is beyond historical experiences with the external encroachment of the territories during the century of humiliation (MacKinnon, 2008).
This category of censorship is primarily utilized to avert political conflicts from occurring in the context of China’s social environment (Tai, 2014). In most occasions, the citizens have the freedom to discuss affairs of state on the internet; however, particular websites containing information that criticizes the administration are blocked for access. Moreover, there is some censorship occurring in China that upholds morals such as limitations on pornographic content and violent films (King, Pan, & Roberts, 2013).
Guo & Feng (2012) define corporate censorship as the process by which editors in corporate channels disrupt the process of publishing the information that portrays business partners negatively. The process also intervenes to avoid alternate offers from reaching civic exposure. In the Chinese mass media, this kind of censorship takes the pre-production stage that outlets segments and information before reaching the public (Shirk, 2007).
The Chinese authorities adopt the use of this censorship to safeguard the development of the citizens and the whole country. In the course of the Cultural Revolution, overseas artistic works and literature, religious texts, and relics of the antique Chinese art were considered backward-looking; thus, they were slated for destruction (King, Pan, & Roberts, 2013). The destruction of foreign cultural artefacts continues in present day China, whereby, although China has improved in terms of cultural freedoms, foreign cartoons are being banned on primetime television. In addition, the country has placed restrictions on foreign films screening. These are manifestations of cultural censorship in China (Guo & Feng, 2012).
Religious censorship has influenced the ban of several religious manuscripts, pamphlets and materials containing religious content in the PRC. As a result, foreigners are proscribed from preaching in PRC. Moreover, the availability of information regarding the manner in which some religious groups operate is limited. According to Lorentzen (2014), the spiritual movement is being subdued in China, as it is evident by banning religious materials and information belonging to the group together with the torture and incarceration of its followers. Nevertheless, the printing of Christian Bibles is permitted albeit on a limited scale (Tai, 2014).
This suppression is used for fiscal protection. Furthermore, the formal rejection of most foreign films barely has an impact on the Chinese. Such films can be obtained in copyright illegal downloads, permitting the Chinese to watch such films in an affordable way, while at the same time ensuring that the money remains in their economy. According to Tai (2014), the Chinese prohibition on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube took place with an aim of granting the Chinese websites competitive advantage over other rival foreign websites. Similarly, China has been criticized for applying double standards for its ban on Google on grounds of obscene content, while the same content can also be seen in Baidu, which is Google’s competitor in China (Lorentzen, 2014).
Preproduction topic approval is also another form of media censorship witnessed in China that involves the government censors segments and information prior to its distribution. Preproduction censorship in China is prevalent in all forms of media, including print, television, and film industry. For instance, scripts for television drama and films must be approved prior to their production (Lorentzen, 2014).
One of the possible solutions that should be considered is coming up with a framework for implementation of due processes for dealing with internet dissidents (MacKinnon, 2008). For that reason, there has to be compliance with the law where the structure must be acknowledged under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Therefore, the amendment of the International Telecom Regulation has to occur to reduce media governance. The flow of information changes rapidly because the Chinese state employs more sophisticated controls to curb these barriers (King, Pan, & Roberts, 2013). Concerning the subject of discussion, the internet is the newest form of information dissemination that has caused a threat in the view of CCP. Consequently, as the evolution of the information technology is on the rise, the state authorities develop innovative solutions to counter the rapid spread (Tai, 2014). For example, there is the need for a constant state presence through the vigilance of cyber police in supervising the internet and its chat rooms. On the same note, the introduction of regulations designed to restrict online content can be helpful. Such regulations require website operators that keep content records and user identities.
Legal and Institutional Approach to Censorship
The state exercises several legal and institutional methods to provide a solution that can lead to effective control of the flow of information and to restrict the independent operation of the media. The constitution of China guarantees various freedoms to the citizens. However, the same law sets the pretext for suspension of the named freedoms through liberal act more so during the violation of the rights (Shirk, 2007). More to say, the state exercises the multitude of criminal and administrative regulations to consolidate its power. The media has to take into consideration that any information can be classified as state secret if the regulatory body determines it to be harmful to the nation’s interest. In fact, journalists have to seek permission from a government related agency prior to publication if the subject concerns the government personnel and institutions (King, Pan, & Roberts, 2013). This solution can lead to control and delay of information by the regulatory bodies.
Another solution that the government considers in suppressing the media is the use of structure and organization of its media regulatory bodies (Guo & Feng, 2012). In this manner, the Central Propaganda Department has the responsibility of promoting the party’s ideologies and legality projects. This organization manages three major media organizations such as the State Press and Publication Administration, the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, ant the Ministry of Information Industry (MacKinnon, 2008). The Chinese government owns all these media production companies. Through this ownership, the country has the power over the media market. The department, therefore, requires members of the press to undergo re-education on the role of CPP leadership, socialism, and media regulations.
Economic Approach to Censorship
The Chinese state employs economic solution over the media to maintain its power. Since the economic changes, the state no longer subsidizes the media. Instead, the country has urged the industry to focus on marketing that may generate profit for the sustenance of the company’s operations (King, Pan, & Roberts, 2013). Just like other organizations, the press industry needs to set up the mission, vision, and the aims of the organization. For example, The Party’s Making Media Big and Strong policy of January aims at promoting the creation of powerful and profitable domestic media that are ready for global competition (Shirk, 2007). Moreover, the print media at the city, provincial, and central levels should be reorganized into media groups to strengthen the press industry financially and to consolidate leadership politically.
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The success of the CPP’s media controls is caused by the fact that freedom of information claims its power and legitimacy. Information is the significant control of the political reforms because it gives the masses the knowledge of their conditions and the evidence of the state’s efforts to interfere with that information. Knowledge can lead to political mobilization and regime change. The party recognizes susceptibility of its position in the face of truth; therefore, it devotes mass energy and resources to control information. In China, the state develops vital censorship mechanisms that aim to regulate freedom of information through legal, political, technological, and economic channels. The state generates a repressive legal environment for the media and constructs an oppressive political habitat for official and self-censorship through ownership of the nation of the media and financial incentives. To conclude, the state increases its reach into cyberspace with an explosion of the internet as a medium for information dissemination.