By David Bandurski — If last year was a trying one for China’s propaganda ministers, 2009 has a lot more surprises in store. A string of sensitive anniversaries and tough domestic fallout from the global economic downturn are sure to keep censors on their toes.

Earlier this week, propaganda leaders in Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, stressed to local media the importance of staying in-bounds with news coverage this year.

At a commendation ceremony for a major local commercial newspaper, Urumqi Evening Post, leaders offered praise, saying that in 2008 the newspaper had “done a good job in implementing the scientific view of development, upholding guidance of public opinion, upholding the spirit of encouraging unity and stability, and the working principle of emphasizing positive propaganda.”

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[ABOVE: Screenshot of coverage of the January 9 ceremony at Urumqi Evening Post, at which propaganda chief Ren Hua (left) presented certificates of honor to the paper’s “advanced workers.”]

Reiterating a message party leaders have conveyed to media across the country in recent months, Urumqi’s propaganda chief urged greater media restraint in 2009, “as the economic situation severely worsens and creates many difficulties at home and abroad.”

A translation of coverage of the Urumqi commendation ceremony follows:

Upholding Correct Guidance of Public Opinion to Create a Favorable Public Opinion Environment
Urumqi Online (乌鲁木齐在线)
January 12, 2009

On January 9, Urumqi Evening Post‘s annual commendation ceremony was held in the sixth floor meeting room of its newly-renovated office tower.

Ren Hua (任华), a member of the [local] CCP standing committee and propaganda chief presided over the event. Representing the party and the government at the city level, she affirmed the work and achievements of the newspaper in 2008, and encouraged the paper’s employees to work as one, pooling their strength and together doing the business of the paper.

Urumqi Evening Post party secretary Yang Guang (杨光) made a summary of the work of the newspaper in 2008, and set out its work for 2009. Urumqi Evening Post director Yang Daming (杨大鸣) hosted the commendation ceremony . . .

Ren Hua represented the party and government at the city level in expressing her congratulations to advanced groups and individuals who received commendations. She said that under the firm leadership of the party and government, the newspaper had done a good job in implementing the scientific view of development, upholding guidance of public opinion, upholding the spirit of encouraging unity and stability, and the working principle of emphasizing positive propaganda . . . creating a favorable thought and opinion environment for economic building and social development in our city. On a number of sudden-breaking news incidents, the newspaper was capable of strictly abiding by the party’s news propaganda discipline, serving a relatively strong role in guiding public opinion to create social stability. Particularly as pertained to the Olympic Games, the 30th anniversary of economic reforms, [the successful launch of] “Shenzhou 7” and other major events, [the newspaper in all cases] reported in a comprehensive and timely manner . . .

At the commendation ceremony, Ren Hua said that the party committee and the city government had even higher hopes for the newspaper’s development this year, but [stressed that] we must also clearly realize that this year, as the economic situation severely worsens and creates many difficulties at home and abroad, news and public opinion work (新闻舆论工作) also faces many new tasks and challenges.

We must [she said] continue to uphold correct guidance of public opinion, creating a favorable public opinion climate for reform, development and stability in our city.

We must be clear about our duties, and grasp the crucial points.

We must further strengthen leadership [of the media], grasping [the task] of [media] team building [to enhance control].

[Posted by David Bandurski, January 16, 2009, 12:37pm HK]