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In China, online rebellion grows over censored editorial

(CPJ/IFEX) - January 8, 2013 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Sophie Beach/CPJ Guest Blogger

In the past few days, Chinese journalists and their supporters have launched startlingly direct opposition to Communist Party rule, protesting a heavy-handed move by Guangdong's provincial propaganda department to unilaterally replace a Southern Weekly editorial on constitutionalism with pro-Party bromides. Defying censors' directives, media organizations around the country continue to post messages of support of Southern Weekly reporters who have gone on strike and called for the dismissal of provincial propaganda chief Tuo Zhen. It is the 21st century equivalent of carrying placards through Tiananmen Square.

Propaganda authorities have repeatedly issued directives banning discussion of Southern Weekly, but they are largely ignored by Internet users. Many domestic papers have used the traditional "good night" message posted to their Weibo accounts at day's end to speak out for Southern Weekly (which is also known as Southern Weekend) and press freedom. The Beijing-based Caijing, for example, wrote: "This Weekend, don't rest, don't say good night."

In a subtle move that was not missed by netizens, Sina News, the country's largest news portal, posted its list of daily headlines so that the first character in each line could be read vertically as "Keep it up, Southern Weekly!", a rallying cry for protesters. Netizens discovered messages of resistance on other news sites. On Monday, all media were required to repost an editorial from the Global Times condemning the protests. Not giving in, the major news portals all posted it as required, together with a disclaimer, such as this one posted by Sohu: "All information from other media is reposted; it does not represent the opinions of this website." The Weibo account of the official People's Daily even appeared to express implicit support for Southern Weekly, writing, "Power belongs to the people, and the people want truth."

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