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netizens ridicule CCTV over fire
February 12, 2009.
Chinese bloggers are defying censorship efforts and taking
delight in ridiculing China's state television station over its
spectacular fireworks debacle that burnt down part of its new
One joke rippling through the nation's heavily monitored
Internet is that CCTV, one of the ruling Communist Party's main
propaganda arms, created one of the biggest stories of the year,
and then failed to cover it.
China's official media have tried to restrict coverage of Monday
night's blaze caused by an illegal fireworks show by CCTV staff
at their futuristic headquarters being built in Beijing.
But members of the public armed with camera phones, text
messages, email and acerbic wit have sought to fill the void.
"Even though the fire was up to their eyebrows, they were still
trying to hide the truth... in this breaking news, the official
media was defeated by the citizen media," prominent blogger Wang
The blaze engulfed a nearly completed 30-storey cultural centre
that was to house a luxury hotel, a television studio and an IT
centre. One firefighter died trying to contain the blaze.
The building is next to the CCTV tower, which is due to open in
China's propaganda authorities quickly sent out a directive to
media demanding no photos, video or in-depth reports, and that
they rely only on the version put out by the official Xinhua
But even that command was leaked and appeared on the Internet.
On web forums, gleeful Internet users digitally edited Internet
photos to add giant robots and fire-breathing dragons attacking
the broadcaster's building.
Xiao Qiang, head of the University of California's China
Internet Project, told AFP the online response reflected
frustration among Chinese people about having to endure CCTV's
"Many of the 'critical comments' that the authorities are busy
deleting actually reflect a popular antagonistic attitude among
netizens toward CCTV," Xiao said.
Twenty-two academics last month launched an online boycott
campaign condemning CCTV's "brainwashing" and failure to report
sensitive news such as the contaminated milk scandal that led to
six children dying and nearly 300,000 falling ill.
Separately, another website called "Anti-CCTV" dedicated to
highlighting the broadcasters mistakes has attracted more than
178,000 visits since April last year.