Just as the controversy over the accreditation of several foreign journalists in China begins to be resolved, Chinese journalists found out that they need to complete and pass an ideology exam in order to keep their press cards.
According the South China Morning Post, Chinese reporters are saying the recent ideology qualifications are another measure of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to wrangle China’s increasingly outspoken media. The exam will be based on a 700-page book, which is currently available in Chinese bookstores, and will assess test-takers' understanding of directives like not permitting “reports to feature any comments that go against the party line,” and knowing that “the relationship between the party and the news media is one of the leader and the led.”
The General Administration of Press and Publication, a key bureau in moderating Chinese news, said that the point of the exam and the training prior to the test is to “increase the overall quality of China’s journalists and encourage them to establish socialism as their core system of values.”
Training includes a minimum of 18 hours learning topics such as Marxist news values and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, which needs to be completed before the exams, which will take place in January or February of next year. If a reporter fails to pass, they can retake the training and the exam. It is not immediately clear what the repercussions are for those who want to opt out of the exam, but revocation of official press cards is likely.
For many journalists, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, this means self-censorship. “The tightening is very obvious in newspapers that have an impact on public opinion,” one unnamed journalist said in a state magazine. “These days there are lots of things they aren’t allowed to report.” The content of the ideology exam mimics a lot of recent announcements made by central government officials that have also been cracking down on the kinds of messages distributed on social media. A list of “Seven Bottom Lines” for China’s most influential microbloggers, which includes businesspeople and celebrities, was distributed as guidelines on what should and shouldn’t be posted online.
But the propaganda doesn’t just stop there; the Communist Party’s propaganda department is also tightening control on future journalists by placing senior local propaganda officials as the head of journalism programs across 10 of the nation’s top-tier universities. The leadership changes are seen as a way of combating what some may consider to be the liberal West’s increasing influence on Chinese reporters. “The restructuring has already been decided and will be announced soon,” one person at one of the affected journalism schools told the South China Morning Post. “Education on the Marxist view of journalism will be intensified.”