Online commerce mogul Alibaba has purchased the South China Morning Post (SCMP), raising fears that editorial independence will be altered.

South China Morning Post Acquired by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd

China’s greatest online purchasing agent, Alibaba, has finally acquired South China Morning Post, a 113 year-old South China Morning Post and its associated media assets. As Hong Kong’s premier English news agencies, its first move was to remove the need to pay for news, making it easy and free to use. The acquisition of SCMP also includes the local editions of Harpers Bazaar, Esquire, Elle, Cosmopolitan as well as two Chinese-language websites. This acquisition comes after approval from SCMP shareholders last month.

Any remaining company listed under the SCMP Group, will be renamed Armada Holdings.

South China Morning Post acquisition – How will this effect free press in China

The acquisition has created concerns of compromised content and free speech in Hong Kong. Suggestions that more political alignment with government dictated policies in mainland China have been denied by Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba. Joe Tsai has said that editorial decisions “will not be made in the board room.”

“Alibaba Group’s vision of bringing together SCMP’s heritage and editorial strength together with its technological prowess offers an assuring roadmap for SCMP’s passage into the digital realm with enhanced clarity and boosted confidence,” said Robin Hu, CEO of South China Morning Post Publishers.

SCMP hopes to increase its worldwide readership by creating a free news site. The paper’s belief that China is a world leader in politics and the economy, demand that they remain an insightful and trusted news source, according to Tammy Tam, the paper’s editor-in-chief.

How else is Alibaba changing the market

Alibaba is rumored to be examining an investment into Caixin, an investigative financial publication in China. Caixin Media Company Limited is a media group dedicated to providing financial and business news and information through periodicals, online content, mobile apps, conferences, books and TV/video programs.

China Media Capital is Caixin’s biggest shareholder has attracted notable potential investors. It also said that existing and new investors “have agreed that our institutional arrangements – including a firewall that separates editorial content from the business side – and compliance with management procedures are necessary protections that ensure Caixin’s credibility.”

No matter your view, it is obvious news agencies in China will not be the same.