2012 Annual Report on Press Freedom in China and Hong Kong


Press Release: Hong Kong                                                                                                

February 4,




The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launches the fifth annual

China Press Freedom Report titled Media at Risk: Press Freedom in

China 2012, in Hong Kong today. The report reviews press freedom in China in 2012 and provides an important insight

into the situation of press freedom in Mainland China and Hong Kong.


2012 saw an escalation in the efforts to control information and censor

the media, with the management of media outlets in China receiving up to dozen restrictive

orders a day and a number of journalists who were suspended or forced to leave

their jobs due to pressure from Chinese authorities. In 2011 the media situation

in China was described as being in the ‘Ice Age’ and this characterization

continued in 2012. In the cases involving Wang Lijun, Gu Kailai and Chen

Guangcheng, mainstream media were either completely prevented from reporting on

the issues or only permitted to republish those articles originally published

in official media. In one case, a government official continuously refused to

provide information that was in the public’s interest using the excuse that it was

a “state secret.” The suppressive hand of the authorities stretched to control online

media in 2012, with the government targeting microblogs. A number of bloggers were

detained for days when they shared messages that were termed sensitive. A

veteran journalist, Yu Chen, was forced to leave his job when he expressed his opinions

online about the role of military service. Additionally, the comment function

on the Weibo accounts of two mainstream online media organizations were blocked

for a few days when they published articles that offended the authorities.   


Media at Risk: Press Freedom in

China 2012 also recounts restrictions placed on foreign

journalists working in Mainland China. Many were harassed and others were

beaten as they conducted their professional duties. In one case, unidentified

people broke into the rooms of two foreign journalists while they were staying

at an international chain hotel and destroyed their computers and cameras. Furthermore

Chinese authorities refused work visas to foreign journalists in response to

the content of their reports. According to a survey conducted by the FCCC, over the

past two years 27 foreign journalists have been forced to wait more than

four months for visa approvals. Thirteen of them had to wait for more

than six months and three journalists who applied in 2009 have yet to receive

any response from the authorities. Chris Buckley of the

New York Times had to leave China at the end of 2012 because he was unable to

obtain a work visa although he had applied months before. The websites of two leading

international media organizations were blocked when they published information

about the wealth of Xi Jinping and Wen Jiabao’s families. Additionally, Tibet

and Xinjiang are completely isolated from independent media access.    


Having monitored press freedom of China over the years, the IFJ has

noted that the Chinese authorities are using newer and more innovative methods

to track the activities of journalists, increasing the risk faced by

journalists in carrying out their work.In 2012, the

Central authority assigned two party officials to oversee the media in Guangdong

Province, once known as the most liberal province in China. Tou Zhen, former

Xinhua Deputy Editor, was appointed as the Chief of the Guangdong Propaganda

Department, and Yan Jian, the former Deputy Chief of the Guangdong Propaganda

Department and former Publisher of Xinhua in Guangdong Bureau, was appointed as

the Communist Party Secretary of the Southern Press Group. They were involved

in a scandal at the beginning of 2013 where the content of a newspaper was

censored before it was published.


In the past few years, the Chinese authorities have tried to be more transparent

by arranging press conferences and using online media to disseminate

information to the public. However the manner in which the press conferences

were conducted did more to restrict media freedom than promote it. During the

trials of Wang Lijun and Gu Kailai a press conference served to divert media

away from the courtroom into a press conference where a prepared statement was

read out and the press were not allowed to ask questions.


The IFJ learns that the police have also been directly involved in the

suppression of media. In one instance the police arranged an interview for

media under heavy surveillance which was probably the first time that an

interviewee was forced to accept an interview by the police and illegally detained

two journalists in Hong Kong and interrogated them for 44 hours. It is also

reported that the Police cooperated with some unidentified people in blocking media

from exercising their duties by accusing them of committing a crime.   


The censorship of online media also increased in 2012. At the end of

2012, the Standing Committee enacted a law to legalize “Online Real Name

Registration” which enables the Authority to shift the onus of censorship onto

the internet service provider.


The suppression also extended to Hong Kong, where the authorities chose

to buy the entire consignment of a book when it was published because they were

unable to control the book’s publisher. A journalist was detained by police

after he posed a question to the President of China, a photographer was

criminally charged, two journalists were assaulted by protestors and two media

outlets were attacked.


It was also revealed that the media in Hong Kong in 2012 faced

significant interference by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-Ying

and other politicians. During the Chief Executive and Legislative Council elections,

the media faced unprecedented interference. Sing

Pao Daily practiced self-censorship under influence and during the Legislative

Council Election media received a ‘white-list’ of pro-establishment candidates

whom they were expected to promote unconditionally. Additionally, unlike the

earlier transparent and cooperative approach demonstrated by the government and

Chief Executive of Hong Kong when dealing with the media, 2012 has seen an

emerging and troubling trend of evading all contact with independent media.  


In Macau, a group of journalists were forced out of their jobs when they

voiced their anger over the escalating self-censorship of the media in Macau. For

instance a journalist was sacked after he disclosed that his employer

self-censored and journalists were prevented from covering a protest about the

suppression of media freedom.


Three journalists working in the region contributed to writing of the Media at Risk: Press Freedom in China 2012 report, and their articles reveal the difficulties faced by the media



“Press freedom is a human right and the media must be able to perform

their professional duties without fear and intimidation” The IFJ Asia-Pacific

Office said. “The Government does not have a right to prevent the free

dissemination of information that is in the public interest, and has a responsibility

to protect the free access to information.”


The IFJ urges the General Secretary of China Xi Jinping and Chief

Executive of Hong Kong Leung Chun-ying to adopt recommendations contained in

the Media at Risk: Press Freedom in China 2012 report, and uphold press freedom and freedom of expression.   


Copies of the digital report

will be available online and at the press conference.

For media enquiries,

please to contact the IFJ’s representative Ms Serenade Woo at (852) 9145-9145. orIFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919




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