Media

China’s censors block Newsroom.co.nz

The Chinese Government has barred Newsroom.co.nz being accessed by its people as part of a Black Friday crackdown on foreign media.

Newsroom’s website has been blocked in China as part of a major new crackdown on foreign media.

The Chinese Government appears to have taken a more severe line in response to coverage of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Last Tuesday, June 4, was the 30th anniversary of the student uprising that ended with thousands of deaths and the arrests of 10,000 people.

This week Newsroom has joined some of the world’s leading publishers in being banned.

They include, The Guardian, Washington Post, NBC, HuffPost, the Toronto Star and The Intercept website.

The New Zealand Herald, Stuff and NBR have not been blocked and can still be seen in China.

The Intercept carried a report quoting Charlie Smith, co-founder of GreatFire.org, an organisation that monitors Chinese government internet censorship.

He told the US based website that the crackdown on Western media represented a significant new development and described it as a “censorship Black Friday.”

“This frenzied activity could indicate that the authorities are accelerating their push to sever the link between Chinese citizens and any news source that falls outside of the influence of the Party,” said Smith, referencing the ruling Communist Party regime.

Wikipedia was banned for several weeks prior to the anniversary.

Chinese Authorities use a system known as the Great Fire Wall to stop people in China getting information from banned websites.

The Washington Post says “ the censorship software now blocks more than 10,000 web domains and is now by artificial intelligence algorithms that tirelessly sharpen its ability to sniff out VPNs.”

Virtual Private Networks allow people to get round the censorship filters but they are illegal and providers face jail if they are caught.

The Chinese government has always tried to prevent coverage of this dark event in the country’s history where the People's Liberation Army used tanks to crush the pro-democracy demonstration.

The Guardian reports the British embassy in Beijing this week issued a statement in the name of the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to commemorate Tiananmen Square but said it had been deleted from domestic social networks.

“We also tried to post this statement on our Weibo channel (microblogging site similar to Twitter) but it was deleted instantly each time and the posting function on our account has now been temporarily suspended,” said the embassy’s press officer Ashley Rogers.

According to The Guardian, Chinese media made “no mention of the 30th anniversary, instead featuring articles about the leader Xi Jinping’s promotion of rubbish recycling, and calls to ‘remember the mission’ of the Chinese Communist party.”

It is likely Newsroom was added to the list of banned sites because it published a story by local China expert, Professor Anne-Marie Brady, who described the massacre as “an open sore on the Chinese body politic.”

Brady, whose research paper on the CCP efforts to interfere in foreign democracies has received international attention, says the Tiananmen massacre was a turning point in Chinese politics.“

“The government set a line on the limits of political reform and showed the population what it was prepared to do to enforce that line…. It caused lasting damage to the CCP’s international reputation. A new era of political control began after 1989, the CCP focused on maintaining the one party state at the same time as engaging in state-led market reforms. The “post-1990 generation” youth of China were fed a diet of patriotic education….June 4 has been deliberately and systematically erased in China; thrown down the memory hole.”

The blocking of Newsroom came as no surprise to Brady.

"The CCP excludes all the world's best papers and websites, so Newsroom can take being banned as a badge of honour."

But Brady believes the heavy handed approach by the Chinese government has been a PR failure.

"The CCP government's efforts to erase discussion of the 30th anniversary of the June 4 massacre has been counter-productive. Now more people than ever before will be aware of June 4 and why the date is so significant in China. Mao Zedong called actions like this 'lifting a stone and dropping it on your own feet'".

The tightening vice of censorship in China has also seen the country’s last recognised investigative reporter quit.

The New York Times last week reported the departure of Liu Wanyong from the China Youth Daily after 21years was the final straw for “a profession left in tatters by the pressure of Communist Party orthodoxy under President Xi Jinping.”

Liu made his name exposing corruption between businessmen and politicians but told the Times “100 'juicy' stories were killed at the Daily in the past two years.”

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