BEIJING — A Chinese weekly newspaper whose editorial staff had a rare but short-lived revolt against censorship issued a correction for mistakes that were blamed on censors and helped fuel the dispute.
The correction came as a bookend to a dispute in which journalists tested the boundaries of state censorship and in which China’s ruling Communist Party showed that it is not ready to loosen its tight grip on the media.
Journalists at the Southern Weekly said the mistakes resulted from last-minute changes made by censors who ignored a usual review by the paper’s editorial department. The journalists used the errors to air their frustration and draw attention to how heavy censorship changed the paper’s New Year’s message from a call for constitutionalism into a tribute to the Communist Party.
Journalists had threatened to go on strike, but the tension fizzled after the editorial staff and the censors reached a compromise that would relax some intrusive controls while keeping much of the censorship in place. Public calls for the ouster of the region’s top censor were ignored, and the newspaper was published last Thursday with no hint of the dispute.
On Thursday, the paper ran a correction at the bottom of the second page to fix three glitches from the New Year’s edition: a typo, a wrong date and an erroneous numbering of the edition. But there was more: The journalists also made their first — though oblique and mild — reference in print to the censorship dispute.
“Newspaper mistakes are always in black and white. In every link of editing and publishing a newspaper, its standard process should always be respected and followed. We have never been more keenly aware of this,” read the correction signed by the editorial staff.
Huang Can, the editor-in-chief blamed by journalists for carrying out the changes ordered by the censors for the New Year’s edition, had been removed from approving the final edition of the issue on Thursday, Jan. 10. Instead, Wang Genghui, another executive of Nanfang Media Group, signed off on the final pages before they were sent for print.
The South China Morning Post reported that Wang again oversaw this week’s Thursday edition. The Associated Press was not been able to verify that independently. Wang’s temporary assignment could signal Huang’s eventual departure from the weekly, or a tactic by the government to calm the dispute.
Members of the editorial staff could not be reached for comment Friday because they had been asked not to talk to the foreign media.
Calls to the newspaper and its parent company, Nanfang Media Group, were either unanswered or not returned.