Last month, the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department informed the media that starting from the end of the year, journalists will have to pass a compulsory loyalty exam towards the Party and President Xi Jinping in order to earn or renew their press credentials. The exam, whose details were revealed on September 18th on WeChat, will be conducted through XueXi QiangGuo ("Study Xi, Powerful Country"), a smartphone app launched in January to disseminate the President’s propaganda.
"This grotesque exam is clearly aimed at intimidating journalists and will provide the regime with the perfect excuse to ban the last critical voices in the media," said Cédric Alviani, head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia office, who denounced the exam as "a measure which brings to mind North Korea, where journalists are forced to be members of the Party and only exist to serve the Great Leader’s propaganda."
A pilot test involving 10,000 journalists from 14 state-run media will commence in Beijing in October. The exam consists of five sections including one regarding “Xi Jinping Thoughts” and another dealing with “Marxist Journalism.” Journalists have to score at least 80 out of 120 points in order to pass, and can only retake their exam once.
Since taking on the mantle of leadership in 2013, President Xi Jinping has placed both state and private media under closer control and has increased Internet censorship and surveillance to record levels. More than 115 professional and citizen journalists are currently detained in China in life-threatening conditions.
China fell this year to the 177th rank out of 180 countries and territories in the RSF World Press Freedom Index, only two places ahead of North Korea.