Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, wrote on his microblog that the apparent party intervention runs contrary to China’s claim that there is no news censorship.
‘‘This clearly tells the international community that China has broken its word,’’ he said.
When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was asked about the issue during a routine briefing Friday, she said she was not aware of the specifics of the situation, but added, ‘‘I want to point out that there’s no so-called news censorship in China and the Chinese government protects the freedom of news report and has given full play to news media in terms of supervision.’’
David Bandurski, a researcher with the Hong Kong-based China Media Project, said the Chinese government normally controls the media by guidance, and that censorship is not conducted in the form of red ink but through consultation among propaganda officials and editors. What’s unusual in the Southern Weekly case is that propaganda officials apparently bypassed the editors, he said.
‘‘That kind of interference, without the knowledge of the editors, is very serious and worrisome,’’ Bandurski said.
It is still too early to tell if the incident is isolated or indicative, and the open letter by former Southern Weekly journalists is challenging Beijing to show its stand, Bandurski said.
‘‘It says, put your cards on the table, tell us where you really are about openness,’’ Bandurski said.