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Beijing shuts websites in clampdown on political reporting

Edgy news programmes run by major web portals have been shut down by the authorities in Beijing in the latest round of efforts to restrict the reporting of politics.

Citing violation of rules, the municipal office in charge of cyberspace regulations has ordered the news portals of Sina, Sohu, Netease and iFeng to end their news programmes, the state-run Beijing News reported.

The web portals targeted are known for more freewheeling coverage of political and social news than traditional media.

By law, Chinese news sites are allowed to carry only political news reports from state media controlled by party committees and governments.

Despite the clear rules against news sites having their own news gathering teams, major news sites have formed their own editorial staffs to chase hot social issues and conduct in-depth investigations.

In the past few years, in envelope-pushing moves, the news sites have hired many veteran investigative journalists displaced from traditional media that have come under tighter controls.

Those journalists - despite working without accreditation - have produced long, edgy pieces on social issues, such as environmental protests over rubbish incinerators and the touchy topic of education inequality, which have become popular among readers.

The a uthorities have long turned a blind eye to news sites hiring their own staffs to report on non-sensitive news, such as entertainment and sport, but are always wary of any editorial efforts on sensitive topics outside direct government control.

The closure of the news programmes run by the websites further restricts China's investigative news reporting, said a Beijing-based journalism professor, who asked to remain anonymous.

"It's becoming more difficult," the professor said on Monday. "There's very little room left now for in-depth reporting."



From Belfast Telegraph