Wed, Mar 30, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Chinese editor quits over Beijing’s media controls

NY Times News Service, HONG KONG

An editor at a prominent Chinese newspaper said he was stepping down from his job because he could no longer withstand the pressures of strict control of the nation’s media, according to a resignation note posted online.

The announcement follows increasing emphasis by Chinese leaders on control of the media. Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) visited top-level state and Chinese Communist Party-run news outlets, where he spoke to staff members about the importance of following the directions of the party.

The resigning journalist, Yu Shaolei (余少鐳), has worked at Southern Metropolis Daily, a newspaper based in the southern city of Guangzhou, since 2000, and most recently served as editor of the culture department.

In a resignation notice posted to his account on Weibo, he wrote he could no longer “follow your surname.”

The phrase appeared to be a reference to Xi’s directions that state and party media must “be surnamed party” — that is, answer first to the party.

Yu could not be immediately reached for comment. The message was deleted about two hours after it was posted on Monday evening on Weibo, but cached copies exist on monitoring sites, including Freeweibo and the University of Hong Kong journalism school’s Weiboscope.

Along with a screen shot of the resignation request, Yu’s post included a short explanation of his decision.

China Digital Times, a Web site affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley, gave this translation of the message: “This spring, let’s make a clean break. I’m getting old; after bowing for so long, I can’t stand it anymore. I want to see if I can adopt a new posture. To the person responsible for monitoring my Weibo and notifying his superiors about what I should be made to delete: You can heave a sigh of relief. Sorry for the stress I’ve caused you these last few years, and I sincerely hope your career can take a new direction. And to those friends who care about me, I won’t even say goodbye, Southern Media Group.”

The Southern Media Group, also called the Nanfang Media Group, is the parent company of some of the nation’s most aggressive publications. However, those outlets have increasingly been restrained and muzzled. In the early 2000s, several top editors at Southern Metropolis Daily were arrested and prosecuted for embezzlement, which was widely seen as an effort to curb its aggressive reporting on deaths in police custody, the SARS outbreak and other sensitive topics.

In 2013, journalists at Southern Weekend, another Southern Media Group publication, protested over a local propaganda official’s rewriting of a new year’s editorial to neuter its endorsement of constitutionalism.

Last month, a front page of the Southern Metropolis Daily, if read in a different direction, could be seen as mourning the trend of media being “surnamed party,” leading to speculation about the newspaper’s intent and the possible punishment of journalists responsible for the page.

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