Credit: AFP/Anthony Wallace

From the time that President Xi Jinping said all party media “have the surname party”, the state media did not publish either dissenting voices or balanced reports of disasters or corruption. 

The year 2016 was almost a mute year across the nation of Mainland China. All media in Mainland is covered by a bright red colour after Xi Jinping, Honourable Secretary of Communist Party openly demanded all media should used “Party” as their surname instead of sticking into their duties to serve people.  Although some dissenting opinions against the remark of Xi immediately disseminating in the internet, they were immediately removed by the authorities. Since then almost no dissenting opinion, a comprehensive news reporting after prominent accidents or corruption incidents were reported by none directly state controlled media . In return, voices or information from the Central Government or the Communist Party was overwhelmingly disseminating by all media across the nation. However when media asked for an official reply from the Government, they always used the press officer system to refuse answer questions. Therefore many journalists do not think the press officer system which started just a few years ago is genuinely did not properly perform and the  Government is still hiding away the true meaning of accountability. Therefore ‘Monopoly’ and ‘Monotone’ becomes the major characteristics of media in Mainland.         

AFP/Isaac Lawrence

All media focused on disseminating the voices of the central Government and the Communist Party of China

Although it was distressing that all media completely becomes the mouthpiece of the Government and the Party, the propaganda department of the Party rarely held a press conference right after the Sixth Plenary of Communist Party since the last five years. It drew a lot of attention and appreciation from both local and overseas media. In the press conference, only a few journalists were able to raise their questions. However it was discovered that they had to submit their questions to the authorities before they asked them. In fact, pre-screening of question has been used for years and it seems that the authority has no intention to stop this. The IFJ asks whether answers given to such pre-screened questions can be genuine. The practice shows that the authorities do not know the true meaning of press freedom. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China expressed their disagreement with the pre-screening arrangement. Some media outlets agree and have directed their journalists not to submit to this kind mechanism.

In 2016, foreign correspondents’ working conditions seemed to improve slightly, particularly in relation to the process of applying for working visas and press accreditation cards. In general, foreign correspondents did not need to wait for a long time, although some exceptional cases still existed. But for situation of applications for a J visa remained problematic because journalists normally could not get a J visa. Access to restricted regions such as Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia was still very difficult. However, the authorities arranged a very few media tours which still restricted journalists’ freedom of movement. There was no transparency about how the authorities decided which media outlets applications were approved. 

Harassment, surveillance and threats occurred occasionally. A typical incident happened in November. A BBC journalist was trying to interview an independent candidate who ran for local council election. The journalist was blocked and manhandled by more than 20 masked men when the TV crew tried to interview the candidate. During the whole process, the masked men knew how to avoid the camera in order not to disclosing their identities.

Credit: AFP/Anthony Wallace

Some Hong Kong media outlets acted as partners of the Government, following the Communist Party line in return for privileged access to detainees.

For the Hong Kong media in 2016, it was so distressing not because of Hong Kong Causeway Bay Bookstore ‘s five employees and owner were secretly detained by Mainland officers for months without given a proper reason and coerced them to make a ‘ televised confession’ against their will. At the same time, a very few of Hong Kong media outlets became the ‘culprit’ of this syndicate. They were continuously had an exclusive stories about them but without a word mentioned how the interview was conducted and how uneasy of the interviewee during the interview. Those arranged ‘interview’ was disclosed until one of them was able to fled away from their restriction and regained his freedom in Hong Kong.

In fact, this was not the only case that a few of Hong Kong media became the partner of Central Government. In the massive detention of human rights lawyers incident, a prominent human right lawyer , Wang Yu, was interviewed by a very few of Hong Kong and Mainland media in Mainland. The IFJ learned that Wang was very uneasy during the interview and an unidentified people was orchestrating her how to follow ‘their script’. Unfortunately, not a word of these prominent observations were reported by the arranged media. An insider told IFJ that all these arranged interviewed were requested by police bureau in Mainland. The subject journalist did not know where to go until the last moment. Police bureau even demanded to pre-screen article before it published.                      

Another incident which seriously jeopardizing Hong Kong press freedom was media covering the sensitive issue i.e. Hong Kong Independence. Hong Kong Independence became one of hottest topic amount the youngsters in 2016. However the mass population is rejecting of this proposition because of lots of reasons. Regardless of which side people take, It became one of the topic because people accumulated a lot of furious about the political regression of Hong Kong since the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong and his cabinets became the governor of Hong Kong. In September, since two pro-Hong Kong Independence candidates were elected by people of Hong Kong and became the lawmaker of Hong Kong. Other than the Hong Kong Government started to use legal action to renege their lawmaker qualifications, majority of Hong Kong media lost their neutrality to report the case and only reported the voices of Central Government. At the same time, a few of journalists who were working for pro-government media outlets acted very unprofessional and unethical. They followed and provoked the interviewees and made them behave badly for the publication. In addition to that, two major pro-Central Government newspapers kept targeting them and published series full of malicious articles almost everyday.     

Macau media in 2016 was also facing difficulties however those obstacles either came from the delaying of releasing information from the Government or self-censorship in the media management. In Oct, Li Keqiang, Premier of China, visited Macau and local media followed all the required procedures to apply for a news reporting. Without knowing the reason, at least one of the vocal online media was denial to attend registered major events of Li but was only allowed to attend a very few unimportant social activities.

Credit: AFP/Philippe Lopez

Each country or city always has a few people have the ruling power. Some of them cautiously and carefully to exercise their power but some people don’t . The role of media in between should be an observer instead of taking either way. At the same time, media should always bear in mind and maintain a cautious mind that uneven of power between the ruling side and an ordinary people could create a disastrous society where nobody could feel they are safe and be respected. People living in a silent society does not mean the society is harmonious but otherwise.

As a kind and wise leader in politics or media industry, they should aware of the needs of people instead of using different kind of tactics and pressure to suppress or willingly to become a ‘partner’ to exercise different kind of evil. If they do, people who embrace the truth should loudly say “No” !

We urge all media personnel to stay alert and uphold professional journalism. Maintain professional solidarity and decline any attempts at orchestrating “exclusive” reports and pre-screening press conference.  

Credit: AFP/Anthony Wallace

 

 

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