Reporters Without Borders today denounced the Chinese government’s “gagging” of the population with increased censorship and other “unacceptable practices” that it said seemed to aim at “stamping out all forms of freedom of expression.” Even as China became the planet’s second biggest economy, it still suffered from very serious environmental pollution and the authorities were targeting human rights campaigners by investing in the world’s most sophisticated censorship apparatus, known as “The Great Firewall,” the press freedom organisation said. Heavy censorship of the Middle East uprisings Keywords such as Jasmin (a call for a “Jasmin Revolution” in China has been made), Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and democracy have been blocked in search-engines. Demonstrations on 20 February in Beijing, Shanghai, Canton and a dozen other cities, organised through online appeals, were cracked down on. Journalists were barred from covering them, police turned out in force and online attempts to discuss them were blocked. An open letter from the organisers of the protests, posted on the foreign-based website Boxun.com, adopted the demands of the Middle East rebellions and called on the government to be more open and to reduce censorship. “Protests will only grow if these issues are not tackled and the authorities simply continue to censor the Internet and block news in an effort to prevent demonstrations,” it warned. The letter was addressed to the National People’s Congress (the country’s parliament) which meets on 5 March for its annual session. President Hu Jintao called for new censorship as part of an eight-point (８点意见) social monitoring strategy at a conference on 19 February, urging provincial leaders to step up online monitoring and develop new ways to “channel online opinion” so as to improve social “harmonisation,” a term the authorities often use to mean censorship. Government propaganda officials clamp down on sensitive subjects to give impression of stability The Propaganda Department has recently forced many journalists out of their jobs for writing “false news”. Investigative journalist Long Can (龙灿) was fired on 21 January from the Sichuan province daily Chengdu Shangbao (成都商报) and a colleague, Li Jianjun (李建军), dismissed on 17 February for criticising the move in print. The history magazine Kan Lishi was forced by Sichuan propaganda officials to fire journalist Ma Lan (马兰) for an article he wrote challenging the government version of the 1937-45 Sino-Japanese War. In Hubei province, three papers -- Changjiang Ribao (长江日报), Chutian Jinbao (楚天金报) and Wuhan Wanbao (武汉晚报) – were censored and strongly rebuked by propaganda officials for reprinting an article from the economic paper Caijing (财经) about a major corruption scandal. The Propaganda Department also ordered the media on 15 February to reduce its coverage of child kidnapping, which has alarmed the public in recent times.