Censorship in China takes one small step forward and two giant ones back
The video game industry in China could see more relaxed censorship regulations, however, the trend of journalistic propaganda and subsequent dismay continues to enrage many in the profession throughout the country.
What is the function of censorship in journalism? Like many questions regarding freedom of speech, the question is rather complicated. Government rhetoric often says that censorship is in the name of the public good – to prevent people from seeing or reading content that could be overly sensitive or offensive. However, in many countries this is simply not the case.
The Chinese government is one of the largest limiters of freedom of speech and the Internet. These restrictions can take on a variety of different forms in both print and online. In cyberspace, many controversial search terms, such as Tiananmen Square and other associated key words, yield no results on Chinese search engines. Further, the government will prohibit coverage of certain events or only permit reporting on them in a certain light.
Many have grown quite critical of these actions, however, a recent change in policy when it comes to the censorship of video games could be small sign of progress within the country.
Video game regulations revised
According to the South China Morning Post, the Ministry of Commerce plans to update its strict regulations on what is and is not allowed when it comes to inappropriate content in video games.
It used to be that before games could be released in the country they would have to undergo an approval process. This would often make for a long and often ineffective wait time. This becomes especially frustrating for game companies considering the fact that the country does not have a formal rating system.
Now, the news source noted, companies will be responsible for making sure that their own products are appropriate for release within the country. One example of this issue coming up was in 2007 when World of Warcraft was launched in the country for the first time. Many characters that were undead needed to be changed or removed in order to meet the censors standards.
The hope is that these new regulations will be able to speed up this process, however, policies in other industries may indicate that this is not necessarily the case.
Former CCTV producer criticizes censorship
According to the Wall Street Journal, Wang Qinglei, a former producer of China Central Television news programs recently published an open letter criticizing the channel for how it recently covered a story in the country.
He published the letter on an open microbloging site, which was subsequently removed. However, it has been reposted a number of times since then. Wang's major criticism was the censorship policies in the country forced journalists to compromise their integrity and instead constantly worry about how the censors will treat what is reported.
"How many of these orders were issued in the national interest, and how many were issued to serve the political and economic interests of some individual, group or leader? And how often did we castrate ourselves as a result of trying to fathom the attitudes of high officials?" he reportedly wrote.
"Our leaders should understand that if the amount of news you can't report climbs too high, people won't believe the news you can report – because it's propaganda chosen with a purpose."
These criticisms are concerning for what are allegedly loosened rules in the realm of video games. While these developers will be responsible for their own content, the nature of the content that will and will not be allowed still remains the same. If the country is to be truly free of censorship, the threat of action needs to be removed entirely.