It has been rumoured for years that Mr Ma, one of China’s richest people, was under pressure from authorities to offload his media assets due to concern he wields competing influence against the party.
Restrictions have been tightening for years, and government censors routinely scrub the internet for anything deemed by officials to be “sensitive”.
Beijing has always held a tight grip over news and information in China, and virtually all media organisations are state-run, falling directly under government purview. Party directives are issued to state media newsrooms, instructing how coverage should be executed, including which topics are allowed to be reported on.
But the rise of the internet gave way to new platforms and methods of disseminating information. Some of these outlets have long existed in a grey area.
‘Love the Party, protect the Party’
The draft document, which is open for public comment for a week, comes at a time when China has introduced a series of new regulations cracking down on numerous industries, affecting everything from e-commerce to after-school tutoring.
In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the newsrooms of state media outlets and demanded “absolute loyalty”, instructing them to “love the Party, protect the Party, and closely align themselves with the Party leadership in thought, politics and action”.
Independent journalists who publish content online that goes against the official narrative are regularly removed and detained by the authorities.
Journalists who sought to disseminate information from Wuhan at the start of the coronavirus pandemic – such as Chen Qiushi, Zhang Zhan and Fang Bin – all remain missing or continue to be held by Chinese authorities.
The Chinese government has also ramped up its threats against foreign news outlets, with the foreign ministry and state media attacking specific journalists and outlets – including The Telegraph – paving the way for harassment and attacks.