Press Freedom in China Bulletin: August

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent onSeptember 8, 2015.

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In this bulletin:

1. IFJ calls for revisions to Cyber Security Law (Draft)

2. IT technician sentenced to 12 years in jail

3. The SIIO receive over 1 million reports of illegal information in six months

4. Internet police station established for internet crackdown

5. 20 foreigners deported for watching online videos

6. Veteran journalist forced to leave liberal magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu

7. Tuo Zhen promoted to deputy of Central Propaganda Department

8. Mainland media ignore reports about Ling Wancheng deportation

9. Human rights lawyer’s spouse sues media outlets for defamation

10. HKJA annual report names self-censoring media outlets

11. HKJA demands the government enact Freedom of Information law

12. Two media outlets cease production

13. Three <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Taiwan</st1:place></st1:country-region> journalists blocked from reporting

14. Dart Center Ochberg Fellowship applications due

1)    IFJ calls for revisions to Cyber Security Law (Draft)

The International Federation of Journalists has put forward suggested revisions to the Cyber Security Law (Draft) to the Law Committee of the National People’s Congress of China on August 5. The IFJ expressed concerns for the current draft as it violates international covenants including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  On July 6, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress released the Cyber Security Law (Draft) for a month of public consultation. The IFJ notes that all laws must recognise universal human rights including the right to free speech and a free press. Both local and foreign media will face serious challenges under the draft law as it will impede the development of a free press. We also recommend that the government implement a strong public education program. View the IFJ submission here.

2)    IT technician sentenced to 12 years in jail

On July 15, IT technician, Wang Yibo, was sentenced to 12 years in jail. Yibo was found guilty of sabotaging the computer system of the China Broadcasting Corporation in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Wenzhou</st1:place></st1:city> and making false accusations. According to the judgement, after sabotaging the computer system, he broadcasted subversive of state message.

The court said that 159,800 households received the message.  

3) The SIIO receive over 1 million reports of illegal information in six months

On July 27, the State Internet Information Office (SIIO) reported that under its campaign, ‘fighting against illegal and criminal information’, they had received 1,277,000 reported cases between January and June. The reports came from across the country, and the majority of reports(67.8%)  were about pornographic or vulgar information. The next biggest majority was political information (17.8%). The report however used obscure language ‘relatively prominent’ to describe cases involving the disruption of social orders and influencing social stability. Similar language has been used recently by police to implement administrative punishments towards netizens.

4) Internet police station established for internet crackdown

As online censorship continues to escalate in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region></st1:city>, authorities continue to look for new and different methods. On August 4, the Police Bureau announced that they would establish internet police stations for major websites and internet companies as part of the nation’s efforts to strengthen online security. According to reports by Xinhua, companies will be responsible for collecting and reporting information on suspected illegal activities and in turn police will help companies improve their security management.

5) 20 foreigners deported for watching online videos

According to international media reports on 19 July, twenty foreigners were deported from <st1:country-region w:st="on">China</st1:country-region> for illegally "watching video clips that advocate terrorism and religious extremism," when they were in a hotel in <st1:placename w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Erdos</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City</st1:placetype></st1:place></st1:placename>, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The foreigners came from the <st1:country-region w:st="on">UK</st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on">South Africa</st1:country-region> and <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">India</st1:place></st1:country-region> and the trip had been organised by a few groups including, South Africa-based charity Gift of the Givers, told BBC "No reasons were given for the arrest. Cell phones were confiscated; there was no access to the embassies or to their families. The Chinese, now trying to find reasons for the detention, suggested that some members were linked to a terror group, to a banned organisation, to watching propaganda videos in their hotel room."

6) Veteran journalist forced to leave liberal magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu

Yang Jishen, the former chief editor of the mainland’s most liberal political magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu was ordered to leave by his former employer Xinhua. A letter, which was written by Yang but publically disseminated by someone else, said that Xinhua had demanded that magazines submit topics before publication. In April, the magazine received a warning order regarding 37 reports, which the management did not submit to the administration, believed to be Xinhua and the Propaganda Department. Yang admitted that the magazine had already compromised, agreeing not to publish stories on eight sensitive areas, including: multiparty democracy, separation of powers, stories on party leaders and their families, Tibet and Xinjiang pro-independence rhetoric, the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown and religious issues.

7) Tuo Zhen promoted to deputy of Central Propaganda Department

Tuo Zhen, who was formerly responsible for censorship at the Southern Weekly New Year Edition in 2013, was promoted to the deputy of the Central Propaganda Department. Tuo was formerly the chief of the Guangdong Propaganda Department. During his tenure in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Guangdong</st1:place></st1:state></st1:city> in 2012 , it was reported that he demanded Southern Weekly to submit topics before publication.

8) Mainland media ignore reports about Ling Wancheng deportation

According to a New York Times article from August 3, the Chinese Government demanded that the United States Government deport Ling Wancheng, the younger brother of former Communist Party senior official Ling Jihua. The Chinese Government wanted Wancheng deported on suspicions of obtaining a ‘state secret’. Following the reports, no Mainland media picked up the story.

Ling Jihua is a close ally of former Presidnet Hu Jintao and was expelled from the Communist Party on July 20 for allegedly accepting huge personal bribes through his family. He is currently under criminal investigation.

9) Human rights lawyer’s spouse sues media outlets for defamation

Wang Qiaoling, wife of human rights lawyer Li Huping, lodged a civil claim against nine media outlets for defamation. The nine media outlets include; Xinhua News Agency and it’s online portal , People’s Daily and it’s online portal , China International Publishing Group, the Procuratorate Daily , Sina, Soho and Zhengzhou Daily. According to international reports, Wang accused the media of reporting with bias and breaching the professional code of ethics. On July 10 three state-owned media outlets including Xinhua, People’s Daily and China Central Television unilaterally reported that nine lawyers and several suspects had organized petitions arguing they were “defending justice and public interests”. The arrests sparked an outcry from national to international community

10) HKJA annual report names self-censoring media outlets

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) released its annual report on July 12. The report highlighted the challenges for the country’s media as well as noting 30 incidents of injury to journalists during the 79-day Occupy Movement in <st1:place w:st="on">Hong Kong</st1:place> in 2014. It also highlights the growing trend of self-censorship within <st1:place w:st="on">Hong Kong</st1:place>’s media. According to the report, Ming Pao Newspaper, Hong Kong Economic Journal, South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Television Broadcasting have been practicing self-censorship and undertaken long-term policy changes in recent years. The report that journalists at the South China Morning Post were told “to seek prior approval of topics they plan to write about”, which deviates from their long-standing policy.  Sham Yee-lan,  HKJA chairperson said: “I have been in the industry for 30 years and have never seen a year with so many reporters being attacked. This is very sad.”

11) HKJA demands the government enact Freedom of Information Law

The Hong Kong Journalists Associations has called on the Government to enact Freedom of Information legislation and strongly oppose any further tightening of controls regarding the public’s access to information. On July 28, Allen Chiang, Commissioner of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, suggested in an official press conference that the Hong Kong Government should tighten restrictions on searching for public information in the 10 most commonly used public registers. Chiang said that a recent survey which highlighted the most commonly searched registers, showed that most registers do not have safe guards to protect personal data being misused. The only two registers that had safe guards were the electoral registry and the vehicle registry. Chiang said that restrictions and safe guards were needed to prevent the ‘malicious use’ of personal data and information online as society entered the ‘big data’ era. The HKJA strongly disagrees with the statements made by Chiang, and argues that such statements contradict Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

12) Two media outlets cease production

While online media has become very popular globally, many traditional media outlets are struggling to survive. A long standing outlet, the Hong Kong Daily News announced that the newspaper was to shut down on July 12 due to financial deficits. 130 employees received one month wages as compensation according to the Labour Ordinance. Following the announcement, the Next Group announced that Sudden magazine will shut down on August 7 and half of all employees at Next magazine will be sacked. The total number of affected employees is approximately 110. After negotiations between the management and the Next Union, the Next Group promised to give one to three months of salary as compensation to each staff member laid off, which is more than the legal requirement of one month salary.

13) Three Taiwan journalists blocked from reporting

Three Taiwanese journalists were detained and blocked from reporting on July 24 after they followed dozens of Taiwanese students as they stormed into the office of Ministry of Education in Taipei. After the protest, students suddenly stormed into the office and the journalists from Liberty Times, Liao Cheng-Hui, Online media Coolloud Song Siao-Hai and a freelance journalist Lin Yu-Yo followed the students. Police detained 33 protesters including the three journalists. According the video of Lin Yu-Yo, police tried to block the camera when he cried out he was a journalist inside the building. Police then tried to take away his camera without giving a reason. During the scuffle, the journalist said he was a reporter but police appeared to ignored him.

14) Dart Center Ochberg Fellowship applications due

The Dart Center Ochberg Fellowship is offering a unique seminar program in the next year for journalists who wish to deepen their knowledge of emotional trauma and psychological injury when reporting on violence, conflict and tragedy. The Fellowship is led by a core faculty of prominent journalists and mental health professionals from the Dart Center, along with visiting faculty. The program of seminars will be held at Columbia University in New York City, United States. Application is open to outstanding journalists of print, broadcast and online , editors, photographers and producers with no fewer than five years’ full-time journalism experience.

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