Chinese journalism: A provincial ban on digging up others' dirt


The delegate Mao Xinyu, grandson of Chairman Mao Zedong, is surrounded by reporters as he walks to the Great Hall of the People bofore the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on March 3, 2011 in Beijing, China.


Feng Li

In China, local officials don't look kindly on hometown reporters who dig up and expose their dirty laundry.

Hence the long-standing practice of Chinese journalism in which investigative journalists travel to other provinces and parts of the country to muckrake. Some of the biggest scandals in China are exposed by journalists who travel away from their hometowns and provinces to uncover secretes. They can't dig up and publish dirt in their own backyards, but have far more leeway doing so outside their own territory -- a partial explanation of why Guangdong province's media is so good at covering Beijing and other parts of China.

But now, Chinese media report, a new directive from one province is casting a shadow over what's been a generally accepted method of getting around strict censorship. In Hubei province, journalists have been barred from going elsewhere to report on problems and scandals. The directive is likely to stifle the flow of news and prevent reporters from uncovering stories in places like neighboring Beijing.

According to the Global Times newspaper, the directive "demands that local media outlets 'firmly grasp correct guidance of public opinion and not conduct cross-regional supervision.'" The Global Times says media watchers fear the order will spread to other provinces and cast a further chill on Chinese journalism.