China plans to put its journalists to the test — literally


Journalists stand in a restricted media area at a Beijing courthouse in August 2013. They were waiting for a decision related to the case of jailed press freedom advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo.


Petar Kujundzic/Reuters

Chinese journalists will now have to pass an ideology exam if they want to maintain legal permission to work in the news business.

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The new requirement is seen as the latest in a series of moves by China's government to tighten controls over the media. Study manuals for the news exam register at about 700 pages and are being sold in bookshops.

According to Reuters, the bottom line for reporters in today's China is made quite clear in the study guide's instructions: "It is absolutely not permitted for published reports to feature any comments that go against the party line." It adds, "the relationship between the party and the news media is one of leader and the led."

The exam for Chinese journalists is focused on "Marxist news values" and "Socialism with Chinese characteristics". Those who fail the test early next year will be able to re-take it, according to the New York Times. Answer some of the test questions yourself at the New York Times' "Sinosphere" blog.  

Some material covered in the test has a blatantly nationalist tone. There are directives on writing critically about Japan, for example, and the idea that the United States is undermining China is evidently presented as "fact".

The Chinese government has taken an increasingly hard line against freedom of expression in journalism, academia andon  social media. The arrest and imprisonment of Nobel Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo is one of the highest profile examples of this hard line. Four years ago Tuesday, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in jail for subverting state authority.

"Repressive regimes worldwide look to China as a model, but Beijing's system of control is increasingly endangered," the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote in a March 2013 report on press freedom in China.

The People's Republic ranks third worldwide in the number of journalists it has put in prison, behind Turkey and Iran.