Facing pressure from Beijing, financial data provider Refinitiv has removed all Reuters news stories from its Eikon terminal concerning the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which took place on June 4, 1989.
The CAC did not respond to a faxed request for comment. Since Friday, at least nine Reuters stories, all with the word Tiananmen in the headline, have vanished from the scrolling news feed on Eikon terminals. While some affected stories had been restored, others remained missing for users in China and elsewhere on Monday. -Reuters
Refinitiv was created in October 2018 after Blackstone Group bought a 55% majority stake in Reuters' Financial & Risk unit, which currently offers over 130 different fintech tool and a massive database of M&A deals spanning 40 years. Reuters supplies Refinitiv's 400,000+ customers with news content under a 30-year agreement that pays the news organization a minimum of $325 million annually, making it Reuters' largest customer.
Refinitiv took the action to block the stories last week after the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which controls online speech, threatened to suspend the company’s service in China if it did not comply, three people with knowledge of the decision said.
Refinitiv’s intention was to block the distribution of the stories only in China, two people familiar with the matter said. However, users outside China also said they could not see the stories. It was not clear why. -Reuters
"Refinitiv is a financial markets news and data provider in China. We are proud of the role we play in the world to facilitate transparent and efficient financial markets," the company said in an emailed statement to Reuters, adding "As a global business, we comply with all our local regulatory obligations, including the requirements of our license to operate in China."
In an internal memo, Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler said that they had expressed concerns to Refinitiv, and had urged staff to "continue reporting as you always would: to pursue the truth, without fear or favor."
David Crundwell, a Reuters News spokesman, said in a statement that the news organization "reports around the world in a fair, unbiased and independent manner, in keeping with the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles, and we stand by our China coverage."
"We continue to provide Refinitiv with the same scope of content that we always have, including stories relating to China, and Refinitiv’s decisions will not affect the breadth or quality of our coverage. We remain committed to telling the stories that matter."
Reuters has been blocked in China since 2015 along with the websites of other major US digital media outlets and platforms, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook.
Refinitiv, meanwhile, joins several other companies, including Twitter, to censor content related to the Tiananmen Square incident and its anniversary. As we noted on Sunday, Twitter voluntarily banned the accounts of hundreds, if not thousands of Chinese dissidents - explaining later that it was 'inadvertent' and promising to restore them.
Chinese social media sites have also been placed on 'lockdown' ahead of the June 4th anniversary.