China’s New Clampdown: Press Freedom in China 2011

 

A

new International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report reveals that press

freedom in China

suffered significant setbacks in 2011.

 

China’s

New Clampdown: Press Freedom in China 2011, released today by the IFJ Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong, reports that as the

scent of the Jasmine Revolution in the Middle East and North Africa drifted

towards China,

central authorities tightened restrictions on the press, and stepped up

intimidation of journalists.

 

During the protests associated with the call for a

so-called “Chinese Jasmine Revolution”, scores of media workers, bloggers, human

rights lawyers, artists and activists were illegally detained and

tortured. Foreign journalists

were among those assaulted. Chinese authorities also suddenly

and unilaterally changed the regulations on news reporting for non-mainland

media,

reversing many of the reforms introduced after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

 

The

report also outlines various cases where news stories were suppressed by Chinese

authorities, as investigative journalists and media outlets were

targeted for reporting perceived to be “negative” by China’s censors.

At least 16 mainland journalists were forced out of their work place, through

sackings or organisational restructuring under pressure from Chinese

authorities in 2011. Police also used state

secrecy lawsto harass and threaten a Chinese journalist investigating

the arrest of a civil servant in Luoyang, in

eastern China.

 

Intimidation

and assaults on journalists continue in Mainland China. One female journalist was attacked

outside her office, and another journalist was killed

and his laptop stolen while investigating the sale of reused cooking oil.

 

Despite these challenges, the IFJ was inspired by

many examples of courageous journalists in China taking a stand against

censorship. After a train crash in Wenzhou, in China’s south-eastern Zhejiang Province,

media were ordered by government propaganda departments to cease critical reporting of the disaster. Despite this,

many members of the media fought to resistthe order.

In response,

the journalists were subjected to official rebukes, fines,

suspension from their duties and demotions.

 

The IFJ was also buoyedby the

response of China’s

General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) to concerns raised by anIFJ

reportthat the government was allowing the creation of media

blacklists by government departments or institutions. The GAPPpublicly

pledgedthat it would not allow the development of such blacklists.

 

However, the

IFJ noted authorities in China

began to use more sophisticated methods to monitor and control the media in

2011. Authorities are now disseminating censorship directives verbally, rather

than in the written form, in order to avoid external scrutiny. A new body, the State Internet Information Office,was also established by the State

Council to

oversee the online media environment.

 

The

media landscape in Hong Kong also became

increasingly hostile in 2011. Five journalists were detained and charged with

criminal offences by police while exercising their duties as reporters. Journalists were stopped by security guards and police while reporting on the first

official visit to Hong Kong by Li Keqiang,

Vice Premier of China, in August. Furthermore, the Hong Kong Government selected

a civil

servant as the Director of Broadcasting of public broadcaster Radio

Television Hong Kong (RTHK), rather than an independent figure, disregarding

overwhelming public opposition to the appointment. In the private

sector, an independent investigation by the Broadcasting Authority of Hong Kong found that senior

management of Asia Television Ltd (ATV) had interfered with the editorial independence of its newsroom.

 

Media

freedom in the Macau Special Administrative Region is also increasingly under

threat. The Macau Government is currently considering the establishment of a

statutory press council to oversee all media in Macau,

a proposal met with opposition by many local journalists.

 

The

report urges the Central Government of China and the governments of the Special

Administrative Regions to cease citing the protection of

privacy as an excuse to enact laws that jeopardise the people’s rights to

access of information and press freedom. The report also urges the Hong Kong

Government to enact access to information and archives laws, to facilitate

accountable and transparent governance.

 

“With

the appointment of new senior leadership in 2012, China has an opportunity to fulfil

its commitment to create a more open, responsible society, and to uphold the

media’s role as a defender of the public’s right to information,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

“The

IFJ calls on the Chinese Government to end censorship and restrictions, uphold

the rights enshrined in the country’s Constitution, ratify

the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and issue orders to all

levels of government that journalists and writers must not be punished serving

the public interest in the course of their work”.

 

The report can be downloaded in English, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese here.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +852 91459145 

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

Find

the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific