The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticizes the recent actions of the Cyberspace Administration Office, in deleting a number of media websites and social media accounts, including those on Weibo and WeChat. The IFJ calls on the Chinese government to end its attack on the media.
On March 8, a prominent and relatively outspoken Mainland media outlet, Caixin, reported via its Twitter account that the Cyberspace Administration Office (CAO) had deleted a series of its articles that included interviews with Jiang Hong, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), during a meeting in Beijing.
The articles in question were published on March 3, in which Jiang did not criticize the authority directly, but made obscure remarks about President Xi Jinping’s comments on state media and the party. Jiang said: “It is the obligation of the government to ensure that Chinese people are free to express themselves.” He also added that “the only thing worrying me is whether the media will be able to reflect the viewpoints of those attending the CPPCC and the National People’s Congress?” In addition, Jiang expressed strong sentiments about the state of the general public, whom he said remain a “silent and a little confused”.
On March 5, after the deletion of the original article, Caixin interviewed Jiang once again. He stated in the second article that he was quite surprised by the deletion of the first. He said “I cannot see any part of the interview where I violated the law or said anything against the government”. Almost immediately after the second article was published, it too was deleted, including its English translation. Caixin then elaborated on these deletions byposting about it on its Twitter account.
On March 9, the BBC reported that the South China Morning Post’s (SCMP) Weibo and Wechat accounts’ in Mainland China hadbeen suspended on March 7. However, SCMP are yet to verify these reports. On March 11, Reuters reported that the Cyberspace Administration Office said that it has the monitoring powers to shut down all social media accounts, such as those mentioned above, but did not specify how the accounts had breached the law in the first place.
On March 11, Cai Chu, an editor for the US-based website Canyu.org issued a statement on how he had been attack and harassed online following the publication of an online letter, calling for President Xi Jinpeng’s resignation on March 3. Cai told the IFJ that a series of posts harassing him were appearing across social media platforms. They mostly accused Cai of working with other people to write the letter. Canyu.org also received a number of DDOS (denial of service) attacks after the letter was published and is currently not accessible due to the DDOS hack.
The IFJ Asia-Pacific said, “Fear and intimidation are increasingly being used as tools by the Chinese government to control and repress the press and freedom of expression. We support brave journalists and media outlets who continue to work in challenging environments, often putting their own personal safety on the line. The new media policy of the government is a violation of basic human rights, while the actions of the Cyberspace Administration Office are an abuse of power.”
The IFJ calls on the United Nations to send their special rapporteur for freedom of expression to China, as a means to further investigate the situation and media environment.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries
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