Australian journalists support striking Southern Weekend journalists
Tuesday, 08 January 2013
Members of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance – the professional association of Australian journalists – are supporting the striking journalists at Guangzhou’s Southern Weekend newspaper in their protest over government censorship. The Media Alliance has emailed its members calling on them to add their name to a letter supporting the striking workers.
Federal secretary of the Media Alliance Christopher Warren said: “The journalists at Southern Weekend have taken a courageous stand to uphold the ethics of the journalism profession and to fight for the public’s right to know. This brave action demonstrates their commitment to strong, ethical journalism that respects the truth and the public’s right to information.”
The Media Alliance has called on General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping to investigate the Chief of the Guangdong Province Tuo Zhen for reportedly interfering with the editorial independence of Southern Weekend newspaper in violation of Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.
On January 1 2013 the newspaper’s editorial calling for the protection of individual rights was secretly changed from “China’s Dream, the Dream of Constitutionalism” to “We are now closer to our dream than ever before.” It is suspected that Tuo changed the article to echo the direction of the Central Authority.
Journalists claim the article had been sent to the Propaganda Department and changed without any explanation being given to the editor about neither why the article had been referred nor why the changes had been made. On January 6, authorities claimed an editor made the amendment but a statement co-signed by Southern Weekend’s editorial board, journalists, and others denied this and accused the authority of exerting pressure on the editorial board.
Subsequently, Southern Weekend’s journalists went on strike to express their outrage and demand editorial independence.
The Central Propaganda Department has subsequently issued an order that no media are allowed to report, comment or forward any messages related to the article or the strike at Southern Weekend. At the same time, all related online messages have been deleted and journalists’ social media accounts have been interfered with.
“The significant changes taking place in China cannot be ignored or turned back,” Warren said. “China’s people demand ethical and independent media to keep them informed. Journalists should be allowed to do their job without expecting to have their vital work tampered with by government bureaucrats. General Secretary Xi must stand Tuo aside, investigate what took place at Southern Weekend and make clear that all levels of government in China will respect journalists who seek to do their job without having their work tampered with and censored. It’s time for China to acknowledge press freedom will be a vital step forward in its rapid development.”