Monday, 28 September 2009

State propaganda "to make people docile"

BEIJING – When the deputy editor of China's Nan Guo Morning Post, Liu Yuan, first heard details of the death of a 15-year-old boy at a camp to cure Internet addiction, he knew he had a powerful story – and a public responsibility.

The details were shocking.

The boy had been dropped off at the camp by his parents on Aug. 1 about 2 p.m. and less than 14 hours later he was dead – savagely beaten by camp "trainers." Locals later learned the camp was an unregistered business that apparently benefited from state money.

Liu dispatched a reporter and the Post broke the story Aug. 4, revealing that 12 people had been arrested and the camp shut down.

Internet addiction among Chinese youth is a serious problem, according to state media.

The news swept across the Internet like a summer storm, and soon, national media followed.

It was public service journalism of a high order, and further investigation revealed many children at the camp had been beaten.

In other countries, Liu might have received praise, a raise or perhaps a promotion – maybe even an award.

Instead, he lost his job.

Local Communist leaders felt the story had shamed the city – and made them look inept.

The local office of the party's propaganda department, responsible for keeping a tight rein on the media, removed Liu from his position.

Liu might have intended to "serve the people" – to borrow a phrase from Mao Zedong – but local leaders felt he hadn't served the party.

Such is the upside-down world of journalism in the world's most populous country, where watchdog journalists are kept on tight leashes and the interests of the party are always paramount.

Scholars say that aside from the People's Liberation Army – which is directly accountable to the Communist Party of China – there is no more powerful and important administrative branch than the sprawling, bureaucratic establishment known as the Central Propaganda Department.

While its inner operations are highly secretive, its main tasks are well known: control information, instruct the masses and mobilize them when necessary – all in the service of the party.

The department has offices that extend down to provincial, municipal and even county levels, across the country.

From a distance, China appears to be a rapidly modernizing country.

But the Communist government hasn't let go of the reins of its propaganda effort since the day it took power 60 years ago.

"It's absolutely essential to maintaining one-party rule," notes Li Datong, one of China's most respected and outspoken journalists, who rankles at such control.

"The aim of the department is to make people docile," he says, "by brainwashing them ... and that's what the party does."

According to Anne-Marie Brady, a New Zealand political scientist and Chinese propaganda specialist, the department's reach is so broad and so deep that it has, "a central guiding role over the whole of Chinese society."

Through its tentacles, the department controls virtually every means of information distribution in the country: newspapers, books, broadcast outlets, the Internet, mobile phones, education, culture, film – just about everything.

For your information, the UK government has a media blackout order that it can use to 'protect the governments interests'. I can't remember what it's called though. Blair used it to stop the media reporting on BAE funding hookers and cocaine for Saudi arms buyers a few years ago. Anyway, my point is if you think the UK government does not have its own propaganda arm, along with a network of state-serving quangos, fake charities and media fronts, you are mistaken.

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