China has issued an updated code of ethics for journalists that calls on reporters to uphold the authority of the Communist Party and be guided by the ideology of President Xi Jinping.
Prescribed media guidelines are not unusual in China, where reporters operate within a heavily-censored environment that is tightly controlled by Communist authorities. However, the explicit reference to Xi is likely to sound alarm among freedom of speech advocates.
The code, which was published Sunday by the All-China Journalists Association, was last updated in 2009, three years before Xi came to power. In the decade since, media restrictions in China have tightened significantly amid ongoing efforts by Xi to consolidate his position as the country’s most powerful leader since founder Mao Zedong.
Though much of the country’s media is state-owned, Beijing has been increasingly unwilling to allow dissenting voices. At least 48 journalists have been imprisoned in China for a range of offenses in the past 12 months, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The new detailed code is laid out across seven sections and covers areas relating to personal conduct and political mindset.
According to the code, journalists must “serve the people wholeheartedly” and be loyal to “the Party, the motherland, and the people.”
Reporters must ensure they have the correct mindset when covering issues relating to domestic affairs, with the code requesting that they “persist in arming the mind with Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”
In recent years the Chinese leader’s broad political philosophy has become a key means of promoting the Communist Party and its place in modern Chinese society.
The updated code underscores its importance, maintaining that all journalists “firmly uphold the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core.”
In line with Xi’s own efforts to bolster the country’s soft power, the code requires journalists to “show a good image” when reporting on China for international audiences, and “actively build a bridge between China and the outside world.”
The code recommends that journalists “vividly interpret China’s path, theory, system and culture when telling stories of China, (the) Communist Party of China, socialism with Chinese characteristics and Chinese people in order to let the world better understand China.”
It isn’t all limited to conduct and content, however. The new code also encourages journalists in China to take advantage of the internet and new technology to better tell the story of China to the world.
“Be good at using new technologies and new applications on the internet, and continuously improve the level of positive propaganda and guiding the public opinions on the internet,” the document says.