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Video: China's State-Run TV Station Scrambles to Censor Obama Speech

The state-run station China Central Television surprised viewers on Inauguration Day by broadcasting President Obama’s speech live and without the usual delay—a cushion for censors to clip offensive words before they go out over the airwaves. Viewers were not surprised, however, when Obama’s use of two sensitive words: “communism” and “dissent” triggered something of a panic among CCTV broadcasters. The Times Online has a play by play:

 “The simultaneous interpreter proceeded smoothly with her translation but her voice faded out with the rest of the President’s sentence. The picture cut from the Capitol to an awkwardly smiling news anchor unprepared for the camera to return to her and apparently awaiting instructions in her earpiece. She turned to a reporter in the studio for comment on Mr Obama’s economic challenges. Yet more confusion as the flustered young woman sought refuge in the notes on her desk. The cutaway seemed to misfire. While many Chinese may not have noticed, the more alert were soon commenting on internet chatrooms.”

Here’s a video of the CCTV cutaway:

China's print media also took liberties with Obama's speech. The People’s Daily completely omitted  an entire sentence of the speech: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.’”

One hopeful note: Times Online correspondent Jane Macartney notes that “China is finding it increasingly difficult to police the internet given its enormous population and a mounting demand for freedom of expression. On one major Chinese language portal, NetEase, a user posted their own translation of the cut sections in English and Chinese. Online comments were often angry. One writer in the eastern city of Qingdao said: 'Why did domestic media produce a castrated version to fool people! Why can’t we see a real world now!'”