The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has shut down investigative news programs at several major online news sites, including those owned by media corporations Sina and Tencent, according to reports.

Live broadcast channels on Sina and iFeng, including political news, and progams across Sohu, Sina and NetEase, are among the sites said to have been shut down.

Last week, the CAC reportedly criticized iFeng, for broadcasting "false" news. The site has already been fined a handful of times this year. It also targeted Tencent for "misreporting" a statement related to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

The CAC does not appear to have released an official statement.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that several of these sites have in recent years employed veteran reporters and “produced long, edgy pieces on social issues, such as environmental protests over trash incinerators and the touchy topic of education inequity.” The programs have been popular. AP also notes that by law, news sites in China are only allowed to carry political news reports from state-run media.

Bloomberg reports that the CAC has “instructed the operators of mobile and online news services to dismantle 'current-affairs news’ operations on Friday, after earlier calling a halt to such activity at Tencent.”

Crackdown continues

The move is being interpreted by many as the latest round in an ongoing crackdown on media and Internet freedom in China.

Chinese officials have long aruged that media and Internet restrictions are required to ensure national security and social stability.

In June, Chinese authorities announced they were looking to “foster a healthy, positive Internet culture” by purging comments by the country’s nearly 700 million Internet users. Ren Xianliang (任賢良), deputy head of the CAC, said at the time that the government intended to increase the rate of purges in comments sections and to provide easier access for people to report "inappropriate remarks."

Earlier this month, Chinese online news media were barred from basing their stories on information collected from social media.

Reporters Without Borders, a non-government organization that tracks press freedom around the world, ranked China 176th on its 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Amnesty International says China "has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world.”

Additional reporting by: Yuan-ling Liang

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole