China: Can Paper Wrap the Fire?

Last night CCTV's new building's extension caught fire because of nearby fireworks celebrating the Chinese Lantern Festival (元宵). Blogger Anlei recorded the whole process with a series of photos. Even though the fire is an accident, the propaganda department still decided to harmonize / censor the news. A notice has been given to major portal websites (via twitter):


To all websites: Report related to the Fire in the CCTV new building, please only use Xinhua news report. No photo, no video clip, no in-depth report; the news should be put on news area only, close the comment posts, don't top the forum blogpost, don't recommend posts related with the subject.

Can such measure stop people from talking about the fire? Wang Xiaofeng puts it rhetorically: Can paper wrap the fire?


The new extension of CCTV building caught fire by accident on the Chinese Lantern festival. Eyewitnesses quickly spread the news via mobile phone sms, the websites followed up the news and disseminated the information. Many portal sites have created special feature pages on the incident. However, very soon, all these features were removed. This is very obvious, even your brain is thinking through CCTV, all these websites have received the order from internet management sector. For breaking news, all information has to be based on Xinhua's news, they can't do their news report. However, Xinhua's reporters are having their holiday, no one was expecting the fire on the spot. If such reporter existed, probably s/he had to be interrogated for the incident. Even if there were Xinhua reporters there, s/he has to confirm the news and finish the report in the office, then hand it to their supervisor for approval. For this kind of big news incident, probably their direct supervisor cannot make the decision and has to refer to upper rank official. Finally, before there is a final approval, the whole world knows about the event.


The issue at stake is the tone in the report: how much damages the fire caused? light or serious. Whether the reports are consistent, such as whether the leaders have arrived on the scene and what have they said? In breaking news like this, news cannot be ready without the appearance of leaders. The leaders have to be hotter than the fire. That's why Xinhua has to be the main source of information. Even if you have seen though the process, or even you have lighted the fire yourself, your report cannot be real. Even the fire is burning up to your eyebrow, it has to be covered up.


We are no longer in a time when media is monopolized by a few. Everyone of us has mobile phones, cameras, computers and we can go online whenever we like. There are many ways for distributing news. This puts Xinhua and media control department in a very difficult position. How can you handle incident when the paper cannot wrap up the fire? I feel sad for them.


To make the case even worse, the fire spot is in an area where foreign media and consulate settled. All they need was to set the camera in their office building for a live broadcast. They didn't even need to walk out from their door and they could have a live report. However, our main TV channel was having the festival show. The other news channel only report on the news via its screen subtitles after one hour. They didn't feel the urgency in reporting the news even though the fire was up to their eyebrow. This is really something. Fortunately, no one has moved in the building yet, and the number of injuries is low. Even so, the building costs a lot of money, how can they repress the news? Do we have to wait till the main building, the Big Pants, to catch on fire and burn your dick, then you can feel the pain?


In this breaking news incident, all official media have been defeated by citizen media.

Below are some citizen video clip on the incident from youtube:

More on the CCTV fire:

CCTV on fire Sun Bin
Beijing CCTV Building On Fire, News Censored ChinaSMACK
Mandarin Oriental Fire Photos from Sina (before they get harmonized) Elliott Ng, CN Reviews
CCTV Fire Photos – Twitter breaks the news again David Feng, CN Reviews
Reporting on the CCTV complex fire Joel Martinsen, DANWEI


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