Why an obscure weekly magazine has become a touchstone for Chinese debates over press freedom
When Mr. Tuo Zhen, the propaganda chief of Guangdong province, rewrote and replaced the New Year editorial of the Southern Weekend magazine without the consent of its editors, he probably did not think it would make much of a splash. Indeed, Mr. Tuo might have believed that it was a natural extension of his job, which involved issuing censorship directives to newspaper editors, approving story ideas and having the final say on whether an article is put to ink.
He could not have been more wrong.
In China, where journalists usually accept censorship of the print press as a fact of life, Mr. Tuo's presumptuous move somehow touched a raw nerve. Through China's social media, in particular its Twitter-like microblog platforms, the editors of Southern Weekend released statements about the incident. And almost overnight, "Southern Weekend" became the rallying cry of users longing for freedom of press in China.
- The Moral Obligations of Chinese Internet Censors
- The Most Popular Chinese Web Searches of 2012
- Chinese Internet Users Ring in the New Year
And these include some of Chinese social media's most high profile users from all walks of life. Celebrities such as actress Yao Chen (with 31 million followers) and actor Chen Kui (with 27 million followers) tweeted explicit messages of support on Sina Weibo, a microblog platform. Yao quoted the 1970 Nobel lecture of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian author and dissident, along with a logo of Southern Weekend. Chen was more direct, "I am not that deep, and I don't play word games, I support the friends at Southern Weekend."