China drops Caixin from list of news sources pre-approved to syndicate content

China’s internet regulator has updated a whitelist of pre-approved media organizations whose copy may be freely used by websites behind the Great Firewall, omitting the cutting-edge, privately owned Caixin Media.

In a move aimed at tightening control of the “master switch” of online news and information, the Cyberspace Administration of China said it had made the changes to “adapt to a new situation, recent changes and new demands” in the online information sector.

The list covers news websites and organizations under central government control, specialist industry media, local news websites and organizations, and government media release platforms, the agency said in a statement on its official website.

“In order to preserve the probity and credibility of this list, news copy sources that no longer meet requirements … have been removed,” it said in a statement dated Oct. 20.

“Compared with the 2016 version of the news copy source-list, the new version … has been greatly expanded, with nearly four times the previous number of sources,” the statement said.

Among the newly expanded sources are government platforms issuing public statements and press releases, “to provide a strong endorsement of … authoritative voices from various government departments around the country.”

A previous whitelist, issued in 2016, which included content from Caixin, no longer applies, the agency said.

The update comes after the administration, the press regulator and the State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC) said on Oct. 9 that they are planning to ban private sector investment in media organizations.

The Oct. 8 list, which is intended to apply across China without local variation, requires that “organizations with no public sector investment shall not engage in business involving newsgathering, editing or broadcasting.”

Banned organizations would include news agencies, newspaper publishing groups, radio or television broadcasters and providers of online news, editing services or publishers, it said.

The Oct. 8 recommendation was signed by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the General Administration of Press and Publications, as well as the Cyberspace Administration.

Private investors are also banned from investing in political, economic, military, or diplomatic organizations, and from “major social, cultural, technological, health, education, sports and other services.”

In particular, there must be no private sector involvement in “political and public opinion guidance or value orientation,” the proposed list of banned investments said.

The Cyberspace Administration cited ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping’s call for “positive energy” in the country’s tightly controlled media industry, where the majority of organizations are already state-run, and expected to toe the party’s propaganda line.

Caixin has reported on cutting-edge business and financial news, including official corruption, pollution, and public anger against the government.

Its exclusion from the whitelist means its articles can no longer be reposted on news portals like Sina.com, removing them from a huge portion of its former readership.

Neither Caixin nor the company’s founder Hu Shuli had responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.

Hu told the New York Times in 2005 that she was on a mission to develop Chinese journalism, while at the same time not crossing any red lines laid down by government censors.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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