In late August the Chinese government issued a public demand that all Chinese journalists learn “Marxist news values”. This means only reporting things that the communist government wants reported and reporting in a way that the government approves of. This is nothing new. In late 2013 the government ordered all 250,000 “licensed” journalists to take 18 hours of training in “correct journalism” (sticking to the Communist Party line) each year and pass an examination in order to remain an officially recognized journalist. This was believed triggered by an embarrassing incident earlier in 2013 when Sichuan province was hit by a severe earthquake that killed hundreds, injured over 10,000 and left several hundred thousand people homeless. China promptly ordered nearly 20,000 troops, along with over a thousand trucks, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to join the relief effort. Journalists were advised to concentrate on the positive aspects of all this. The journalists generally complied.
The government media bureaucrats did not want more of the bad press the government got during an even deadlier earthquake back in 2008. In that one over 80,000 people died and millions were made homeless. In 2008 the media had a field day exposing local corruption that allowed flimsy public building to go up and quickly come down during an earthquake. Thousands of school children died because of that. The journalists also reported the shortcomings of using military personnel for relief work. The army sent in 130,000 troops to help and some remained until the end of the year. Chinese troops are increasingly used for disaster relief and arrived quickly for the 2008 disaster. This was one of the largest such deployments ever, with over six percent of armed forces personnel sent in. The media exposure of leadership and performance problems troops experienced alarmed and angered the government who saw the journalists ignoring all the good the troops were doing. Since then the military has added disaster relief training for commanders and troops and prepared more effective plans for these operations. But the government saw the main problem as undisciplined journalists who have forgotten who they work for.
The government also tweaked its Internet censorship software and procedures to catch and delete negative reports about the disaster and relief efforts from non-journalists. While many Internet users may not see those deleted comments, government officials do and seek ways to fix problems that are fixable. Now the government wants more attention directed at how some 2008 corruption issues were addressed (so that buildings put up after 2008 held up in the 2013 earthquake) and that the troops have gotten more effective at bringing aid to earthquake victims.
These censorship efforts are noted by most people. Chinese also notice that the government is no less fanatical about controlling what is reported about these disasters. Most Chinese believe that government suppression of free speech is expanding and that is very unpopular with the general population. The government does not care, it just wants to control the news.