Protecting the Rights and Interests of Journalists and Promoting Professional Ethics
As a national organization of the Chinese press, the ACJA attaches great importance to protecting the rights and interests of journalists. It has adopted various measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the press workers, and promotes self-discipline pursuant to its regulations, in an effort to regulate the press, promote the observation of law and discipline in the profession of the press, put socialist core values into action, and honor the professional ethics of the press.
I. Protecting the Rights and Interests of Journalists
Receiving complaints. The ACJA has an office to register complaints from journalists, who can also call the office’s hotline or send emails. An emergency response system is activated in the event of serious infringement of journalists’ rights. The ACJA will directly address major incidents, and usually entrusts its lower-level branches and other journalist associations to deal with general complaints. The usual procedure includes investigation of the matter, offering support to the journalist concerned, seeking redress and demanding apology, and urging for punishment of the perpetrator through the law. In 2014 the ACJA accepted over 100 complaints from journalists, and concluded 80 percent of these cases. In 2015 it handled 80 complaints in the form of telephone calls, letters and visits, and concluded 85 percent of these cases.
Implementing assistance programs for journalists. According to the Measures on Implementing the Assistance Program for Chinese Journalists, issued by the ACJA in January 2014, in December the ACJA sent a total of RMB1.12 million to 15 journalists who had suffered harm or injury on the job. In 2015, 16 journalists from one press unit under the central government, two national newspapers, and nine local press units received RMB360,000 from the fund.
Rewarding outstanding journalists. In accordance with the Measures on Awarding Honors to Outstanding Journalists, issued by the ACJA in July 2013, on February 2, 2015 the Association conferred the title “National Outstanding Journalist” to Tang Ji, a reporter of the Inner Mongolia branch of Xinhua News Agency, for his role in the investigation of the misjudged murder case of Huge Jiletu, in the face of obstruction and difficulties, which led to a retrial at the Higher People’s Court of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Nine years after Tang started his investigation, the ruling was overturned and Huge was exonerated. On December 23, 2015, to honor Jiang Ya and Song Hao’en, two reporters of Chongqing Radio and Television Group who died on duty, the ACJA posthumously awarded them the title “National Outstanding Journalist,” and called on the press to learn from them.
Promoting commitment and pride among journalists. In October 2014, the ACJA released the Measures on Conferring Honorary Certificates and Badges to Senior Journalists, to honor senior journalists who have served over 30 years by awarding certificates and badges every five years. In 2014-15, a total of 20,495 journalists received the honor.
Safeguarding the physical and psychological health of journalists. In 2014 the ACJA organized a trip for nightshift editors to Guiyang, Guizhou Province, to receive psychological counseling and engage in exchanges with peers. In 2015, more trips were arranged for nightshift editors to Shenyang, Benxi, Dalian and Lüshun in Liaoning Province, Jiashan, Haining, Tongxiang and Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, and Nanyang, Xichuan and Xixia in Henan Province, where they gathered firsthand information, interviewed locals and exchanged views with peers. A total of 149 editors from the press units and news portals under the central government, national newspapers and local news media took part.
Strengthening communities and building organizations. In 2015 the ACJA further strengthened services for and guidance of national press communities under its supervision, organizing workshops, training, awards, interviews and rights protection activities, and giving guidance on the annual inspection of the organizations’ legal persons and executive committee elections. The China Industrial Newspapers Association (Central Media) changed its name under the guidance of the ACJA, which also held meetings attended by the heads of provincial-level journalist associations to strengthen exchanges and offer guidance on their work. In accordance with the Notice on Pilot Runs of Separating National Industrial Associations from Administrative Organs, a guidance document from the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the National Development and Reform Commission, which urges the separation of political functions from press management, clear division of rights and duties, and self-governance by law, the ACJA separated itself from the press communities previously under it and strengthened the building of professional organizations.
II. Promoting Professional Ethics
In recent years China’s press has acted to address pressing problems such as fake news and extortion by abusing power of the press, in an effort to regulate the behavior of the press, tackle key problems and strengthen professional ethics.
(1) Work of the Ethics Committee for the Press. In 2015, to further strengthen self-discipline and public supervision of the press and develop a professional team, the CAJA promoted the establishment of ethics committees nationwide, based on pilot schemes run in various locations. By the end of 2015, 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities had their own ethics committees, as did the China Industrial Newspapers Association. These committees have investigated and reported on a number of cases involving extortion by abusing power of the press, paid-for news and fake news, and have organized evaluations of news pieces. This plays an active role in cleaning up the environment for news media and building a reporters’ team, and has won wide acclaim from all social sectors.
On December 29, 2015, the Ethics Committee for the Press of the ACJA was founded based on the pilot program of ethics committees at lower levels. Currently the ACJA Ethics Committee operates under the Charter of the ACJA Ethics Committee for the Press (Trial), and is improving its workflow and systems to establish a long-term mechanism for promoting self-discipline among news media.
(2) Trial implementation of the media social responsibility report system. Based on the first pilot round of media social responsibility report system in 2014, 17 news agencies joined the program in 2015 to release social responsibility reports to the public. On May 12, the second round of the reports were released by 28 media units, to review their performance in 2014, including the responsibilities of correct guidance, service-providing, humanistic concern, promoting cultural development, upholding professional norms, preventing serious errors in publications, lawful operation, and ensuring the rights of journalists. Areas that needed improvement and relevant measures were also covered. The pilot program of the media social responsibility report runs a layered appraisal system, with the provincial-level ethics committees evaluating the reports of media organizations under their supervision, and the ACJA reviewing the reports of media units under the central government. For fair and objective appraisal, the ACJA issued the Measures Regarding the Evaluation of 2014 Media Social Responsibility Reports and Rewards and Punishment Criteria, and rated the results by combining qualitative and quantitative indexes and decided on rewards and punishments. The third round of the pilot program of media social responsibility report system began in the end of 2015, including all regions where ethics committees had been set up.
(3) Strengthening investigation of pressing problems of news agencies. Crackdowns on extortion by abusing power of the press and fake news were extended to a deeper level. By September 2015, the SAPPRFT had handled 240 reports on press wrongdoing, and concluded 80 percent of all cases. Violations of laws and regulations by media units, including Moneyweek, 21st Century Business Herald, China Industrial and Economic News (CIEN), China County Times, China Culture, and 21cbh.com, were reported and the persons accountable for the misconduct received administrative punishments. The ACJA received 574 reports, 36 of which entered investigation. The reports came from Hebei, Jiangxi, Henan, Guangdong, Sichuan and Gansu provinces, where the ACJA sent investigators to media units involved in extortion, paid-for news, and fake news. The confirmed violations of press ethics were subsequently made public.