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China bans local media outlets from reporting on death of top military official

The late Xu Caihou listens to national anthems during a welcome ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, in this October 27, 2009 file photo.
The late Xu Caihou listens to national anthems during a welcome ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, in this October 27, 2009 file photo.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 19 March 2015.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticizes the Chinese authorities' continued control of media reporting following the death of the former vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission on Sunday, March 15, 2015.

Xu Caihou, the former vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission died on Sunday from bladder cancer. The high-ranking officials' death however, was not permitted to be published on the front page of any news outlet. According to the China Digital Times, the Chinese authorities ordered all media to only republish the report from Xinhua, the state-owned media agency and to ensure the news was not a headline on the front page. In addition all outlets were also ordered to shut down any commentary functions on online news.

Only one media outlet published the news on the front page, the Global Times English, which is the sister media site of People's Daily. All other media left the story off their front page.

Xu was promoted to vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission by Jiang Zemin, the former President of China. Xu came under investigation in March 2013 after reports surfaced that he was found to be taking advantage of his position to assist the promotion of others and accepting large bribes.

In October last year, the Military Procuratorate concluded its bribery investigation transferred Xu's case to the next stage for review and prosecution. Since Xu's case on file for investigation he had been under surveillance as patient at the PLA Gender Hospital, up until his death. Last year he was expelled from the Communist Party and discharged from military service with his rank revoked.

The IFJ Asia Pacific said: "Although the fundamental principle of the media, according to orders from authorities, is to 'maintain stability' it does not mean that the general public should be deprived of information. The public have a right to know, particularly information relating to public servants and state workers. The government cannot continue to repress information that they deem not important when the public has a right to know."

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