China has told the domestic media to tighten up its standards in the wake of journalistic corruption scandals.
Beijing ordered news organisations to sack illegally recruited employees and close local offices if they have too many of them, Xinhua reported.
State media has been the key conduit for Communist Party propaganda, but reforms over the past decade have allowed greater commercialization and some increase in editorial independence, Reuters said.
China media watchers say blackmail has become a widespread practice in the domestic press and many journalists are open to bribes.
In September, executives of a respected business newspaper website confessed on state television that they extorted “huge payments” from companies that planned to list on the stock exchange for refraining from publishing critical stories.
There has also been crackdown at the main state broadcaster, CCTV, where prosecutors have detained a top news anchor and a senior executive is being investigated on suspicion of bribery.
President Xi Jinping has overseen a sweeping tightening of controls over what state-run media can report, as part of a broader campaign against anyone seen challenging the ruling party.
News organisations at all levels have now been told to “shut down local offices that fail to meet standards and dismiss unlawfully recruited employees”, Xinhua said in a report late Wednesday, citing a joint statement from the party propaganda office and media and internet regulators.
“Some news groups have too many local offices and employ personnel through unofficial channels, resulting in frequent illegal acts that severely undermine the spirit of journalism, harm the authority and credibility of news and lead to grave social consequences,” it quoted the statement as saying.
“Key news websites supervised by central authorities must gain approval to set up subsites for local regions. Illegal websites or offices must be shut down by the end of March.”
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