How China papers fought censorship

Above photo is a stack of the Southern Weekly, whose staff protested against censorship, on display at a newsstand in Beijing.

Journalists at the Beijing News were at home late one night last week when their mobile phones started ringing.

Colleagues in the newsroom were telling them of a showdown between the newspaper's management and propaganda-department officials.

That afternoon, propaganda officials had gone to see publisher Dai Zigeng and editor-in-chief Wang Yuechun to demand that the paper heed a government directive to publish an editorial by the nationalist Global Times, denouncing protests against censorship at another paper, the Southern Weekly.

But the Beijing News was resisting.

That night at the Beijing News, Mr Dai and Mr Wang called a meeting with a small group of staff - mostly editors, though reporters who were close to the office rushed back.

They asked for opinions about running the editorial criticising the Southern Weekly.

Everyone opposed it despite a threat from the authorities to shut their paper down, said an editor.

The Global Times, owned by party mouthpiece the People's Daily, blamed overseas forces for inciting the Southern Weekly protests and said China was not ready for dramatic media reforms.

The talks between the Beijing News and the propaganda officials went on into the night.

Mr Dai, who had built the Beijing News into a title known for feisty reporting and commentary, told the officials that he might as well resign if the government was forcing the paper to print something against its will.

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