Chinese journalists forced into 90 hours of lessons to ‘learn the party line’

State-accredited reporters to undergo training aimed at stamping out dissent

Chinese Premier Xi Jinping
(Image credit: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

China has announced plans to strong-arm around 200,000 journalists into having at least 90 hours of lessons to ensure that they are “professionally excellent” and loyal to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The plan to have journalists “learn the party line” was announced in a draft document from the National Press and Publication Administration and comes amid heightened efforts by President Xi Jinping to “tighten control over journalists”, The Times said.

“Independent journalism has no place in China,” the paper added, meaning that “only journalists accredited by the state and hired by state media are allowed to gather news”. Reporters seeking to renew their press cards in 2019 had to first “pass a test on Xi’s thoughts, including his directive on propaganda work”.

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“Guided by the party’s mission on news and public opinion work, we must deepen the Marxist news education,” the draft document said.

“Throughout continued education we must carry out the work to construct the journalists’ political abilities and guide the news professionals to always take the correct political direction, have the right public opinion orientation and value orientation.”

The courses will also focus on “raising political awareness and enhancing political competence”, it added.

Forbes has described China as “one of the riskiest, most oppressive places for a journalist to exist and to try and function professionally” after Reporters Without Borders (RWB) placed it ahead of just Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea at the bottom of its 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

“China’s state and privately-owned media are under the Communist Party’s ever-tighter control, while the administration creates more and more obstacles for foreign reporters,” the index said. Beijing is also “trying to export its oppressive model by promoting a ‘new world media order’ under China’s influence”.

Persecution of journalists may also “have contributed to the global coronavirus outbreak by stopping whistleblowers coming forward in the early days of the pandemic”, RWB told The Guardian following the release of the global rankings.

“We’ve argued and still argue that if the press had been freer in China then it’s possible a global pandemic could have been averted,” Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns at the organisation, told the paper.

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