Censored Chinese Newspaper Editorial Sparks Rare Journalist Strike



GUANGDONG- Journalists at the Chinese newspaper The Southern Weekly (also known as the Southern Weekend) have gone on a rare strike, claiming in an open letter that a New Year's editorial calling for political reform and protection of individual rights was censored and re-written as Communist party propaganda.

Photo: Robert Buecheler via Wikipedia

Ranked 174th out of 179 countries for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders, China is seeing a very rare protest against the censorship imposed by its government.

Dozens of people gathered outside the offices of the newspaper, in the southern city of Guangzhou, in Guangdong province, in support of the journalists and holding signs demanding "freedom, constitutionalism and democracy.”

"The NanfangMedia Group that publishes The Southern Weekly is relatively willing to speak the truth in China so we need to stand up for its courage and support it now," Ao Jiayang, one of the protesters, told Reuters.

The South China Morning Post reports that newspaper management issued a statement falsly claiming that the editorial had been written by an editor and was not a last minute alteration by the province’s propaganda chief, Tuo Zhen.

The editorial staff themselves later issued a statement denying the management's account and announcing a strike: "The editorial staff will fight against the falsified statement … until the issue is resolved, we will not do any editorial work."

According to journalists from The Southern Weekly, more than 1,000 stories were censored or abandoned since Guangdong province propaganda chief Tuo Zhen took his post last year.

Searches for The Southern Weekly on China's version of Twitter, Weibo, were blocked on Monday according to the China Media Project. A message said : “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies the search results for ‘Southern Weekly’ cannot be shown.”

This crackdown on freedom of expression comes despite pledges of change from the new Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.

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Iran To Offer Master's And PhD In Morality Enforcement

For those aiming to serve the Islamic Republic of Iran as experts to train the public morality agents, there are now courses to obtain the "proper" training.

Properly dressed in the holy city of Qom.

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

A woman in Tehran walks past a mural of an Iranian flag

The traffic police chief recently said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes

Rouzbeh Fouladi/ZUMA

New academic discipline

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

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