China is moving to enact new restrictions on television and Internet freedoms, according to a report last week in the New York Times. The proposed actions are intended to curb the growth of entertainment shows and anonymous blogging in the communist country, and are justified by political leaders through appeals to social well-being.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television ordered 34 major satellite television stations to limit themselves to no more than two 90-minute entertainment shows each per week, and collectively 10 nationwide. They are also being ordered to broadcast two hours of state-approved news every evening and to disregard audience ratings in their programming decisions. The ministry said the measures, to go into effect on Jan. 1, were aimed at rooting out “excessive entertainment and vulgar tendencies.”

Meanwhile, the blogging restrictions aim to protect the public from so-called “harmful information” — or, in other words, “evidence of government corruption.”

Party leaders [also] signaled new curbs on China’s short-message, Twitter-like microblogs, an Internet sensation that has mushroomed in less than two years into a major — and difficult to control — source of whistle-blowing. Microbloggers, some of whom have attracted millions of followers, have been exposing scandals and official malfeasance, including an attempted cover-up of a recent high-speed rail accident, with astonishing speed and popularity.

… the Communist Party’s Central Committee called in a report on its annual meeting for an “Internet management system” that would strictly regulate social network and instant-message systems, and punish those who spread “harmful information.” The focus of the meeting, held this month, was on culture and ideology.

No matter how you feel about reality television and anonymous blogging, these restrictions are absolutely an unethical use of political power to limit freedom of expression and speech.

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