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Deal defuses standoff over Chinese censors

GUANGZHOU, China — A deal to keep propaganda officials from rewriting articles in an influential weekly newspaper defuses a standoff that became an unexpected test of the new Chinese leadership’s tolerance for political reform.

The Propaganda Department, which controls all media in China, chiefly relies on directives, self-censorship by editors and reporters, and dismissal of those who do not comply to enforce the party line.

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Hopes among supporters of the Southern Weekly that the dispute would strike a blow against censorship appeared to fizzle under the tentative resolution reached Tuesday between the newspaper’s Communist Party-backed management and rebellious staff.

Editors and reporters will not be punished for protesting and stopping work in anger over a propaganda official’s heavy-handed rewrite of an editorial last week, according to two members of the editorial staff. One, an editor, said propaganda officials will no longer directly censor content before publication, though other longstanding controls remain.

‘‘If that’s the case, we’ve got a small victory for the media,’’ said David Bandurksi, media expert in Hong Kong.

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