The Chinese government imposed a media blackout late last week on coverage of last month's high-speed rail accident that killed at least 40 people and injured 210.
The New York Times reports that the directive, which China made to state-run and privately owned media outlets, comes as criticism of the government's handling of the crash is growing stronger.
The order forced newspapers across China to withdraw front-page articles and rapidly revise their coverage of the accident. The move, however, only appeared to add to the public outcry over the government's handling of the crash, and many journalists took to social networking sites over the weekend to voice their disapproval.
The Chinese media have so far been highly critical of a perceived lack of transparency in the aftermath of the crash. The government's rescue efforts have also been a target of sharp criticism among the public and the press.
According to one editor of a Chinese newspaper who spoke to Times, his paper received a call on Friday from government officials telling the staff to "cool down" its coverage of the accident. Later in the day, the officials instructed the paper to print only the government-sponsored wire story on the crash. Finally, the government ordered the paper to remove any accident coverage from the front page.
Still, the government could not censor the response on social media sites, where outraged citizens and journalists expressed their outrage. “My story will not go to print today and looks like I will have to write something else,” one journalist wrote on a microblog. “I’d rather leave the page blank with one word—‘speechless.’ ”
The latest media blackout in China isn't the first time the government has censored the press during a period of criticism. After the devastating 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, Chinese officials blocked coverage of how the disaster affected poorly built schools in the region.