August 18, 2017
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Chinese authorities to present credible evidence that certain websites have violated laws as alleged.
According to China Daily, three popular news portals – toutiao.com, NetEase, and Phoenix – were punished by the National Office against Pornographic and Illegal Publications Office in Beijing on August 17, on grounds of carrying “pornographic” content. In addition to the fine, the channels were suspended for a week in order to “rectify” the content.
The National Office stated that it had already cooperated with at least seven other departments including the Police Bureau; the State Administrative Office of Press Publication Radio Film and Television and the Ministry of Industrial and Information Technology to fight “harmful” information online. The office, which is reportedly focusing on digital content, targeted weibo, WeChat, search engines, mobile apps, and websites, on the pretext of “fighting against illegal and pornographic” material has penalized traditional and new media since 2008.
At the same time, the Cyberspace Administrative Office in Zhejiang and Hainan also alleged that several websites including Taobao.com, were selling illegal VPN and computing system tools and a few websites carried “incorrect” and “vulgar” information. However, no evidence was presented to show how these websites had breached the Cyber Security Law of China and other relevant regulations.
This new wave of crackdowns on the online media started in April after Liu Yunshan, one of the members of the Politburo Standing Committee of China attended a seminar in Beijing. During the meeting, Liu demanded that leaders of all propaganda departments across the nation carry out “propaganda activities” as a preparation for the 19th Communist Party Congress scheduled to be held in autumn of this year. Such clampdowns during the so-called ‘sensitive periods’ are not new, and a number of traditional and online media outlets have been forced to shut down or pay the penalty.
The IFJ said: “There has not been a shred of evidence produced by the National Office or relevant departments to prove that the websites shut down and penalized have violated any laws or regulations. In the absence of such proof and demonstrable grounds, the targeted silencing of media outlets creates a chilling effect in the industry.”
The IFJ urged the National Office against Pornographic and Illegal Publications and other relevant departments to provide full evidence to the public in order to allow the affected parties and citizens to analyze the evidence for themselves. – IFJ media release
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