New IFJ Report Outlines Restrictions on Journalists in China in 2010

A new International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report has uncovered scores of restrictive

orders issued by China’s

authorities in 2010 that block information on public health, disasters,

corruption and civil unrest.

 

Voices

of Courage: Press Freedom in China

2010, released today by IFJ

Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong, outlines more than 80 restrictive

orders issued last year by authorities in China. The orders are a mere sample

of the vast array of controls on information that journalists and media workers

are known to grapple with when reporting the news.

 

“The IFJ has uncovered a series of orders

issued by China’s propaganda

machine in 2010, a worrying indicator that China’s leaders are not fulfilling

the promises they made to the international community ahead of the 2008 Beijing

Olympic Games to move towards a more open media environment,” IFJ General

Secretary Aidan White said.

 

“In January, a new raft of restrictions

landed, indicating that censorship is likely to continue apace in China in 2011, further limiting people’s ability

to find out what is going on in their local communities, across China,

its territories and elsewhere in the world.”


Despite positive statements from China’s leadership in 2010 confirming

the media’s important watchdog role in society, journalists and media workers continued

to face restrictions, harassment and intimidation during the year, including:

 

  • A restrictive order in March prevented any independent reporting of a defective vaccine which had killed or disabled about 100 children. Editor-in-chief of China Economic TimesBao Yueyang was later removed from his position after allowing reports on the vaccine to be published after the order was issued.

 

  • Media was ordered not to re-publish even state-run Xinhua News Agency reports on a deadly explosion in Aksu City, Xinjiang, in August.

 

  • Economic Observer journalist Qiu Ziming became an online “wanted person” of the Lishui City security bureau in Zhejiang in July after reporting a listed company had breached stock exchange rules.

 

  • Zhao Lianhai, a former journalist and parent of a victim of the 2008 Sanlu tainted milk scandal, was sentenced to two-and–a-half-years’ jail in November, for organising people to gather in front of government buildings and for being interviewed on the street.

 

  • The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Guarding State Secrets was amended in October to provide possible jail terms for people who leaked secret information through the internet.

 

  • The Central Propaganda Department banned in September reports on high vacancy rates of residential apartments and the insufficient income resource problems people experienced.

 

These violations

of journalists’ rights not only block access to information but also serve to

foster China’s

endemic culture of self-censorship, driven by the extraordinary pressure that

journalists and media workers face each day.

 

The report notes positive sentiments aired by China’s

power-holders, both past and present, during 2010. Premier Wen Jiabao gave a speech

to the National People’s

Congressin March which referred to the media’s

important oversight role in society, a tacit acknowledgement of the closed

media environment in the country. An open letter signed by 23 well-known senior

ex-Communist Party officials in October called on the Central Propaganda

Department to end media censorship.

 

However, in practice, there is little evidence of a

change in attitude by authorities and the Central Government.

 

The report’s launch comes as new directives were

issued to media following a meeting of officials of China’s Central and Provincial Propaganda

Department on January 4. The directives limit reporting on subjects such as natural

disasters, collective action (protests), criminal trials, corruption cases and

the demolition of homes. The term “civil society” is banned, as is the practice

of online voting.

 

Throughout 2010, central and provincial authorities sought

to control and restrict print, broadcast and online media. In some cases, the

controls extend beyond those placed on individuals. The family and associates of

2010 Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo were placed under intense pressure with

many, including Liu’s wife, placed under house arrest or prevented from

travelling abroad.

 

Many courageous

journalists in China

took a stand against censorship through the year by taking part in protests or

signature campaigns. In August, journalists in Yichun City, Heilongjiang,

protested after four of their colleagues were detained by police, and

successfully secured their release.

 

In taking

these actions, journalists expose themselves to considerable personal and

professional risk, facing demotions, fines or incarceration for so-called

breaches. In June, media workers initiated an online boycott petition when

management at one media outlet tried to stop other media outlets from reporting

that three of the company’s journalists were reportedlypunished

with “re-education” after they had reported news which involved local

government officials.

 

Voices

of Courage: Press Freedom in China

2010 calls on China’s

Government to end censorship and restrictions, uphold the country’s

Constitution, order the immediate release of all

jailed journalists and media workers in China, and issue orders to all levels

of government that journalists and writers must not be punished for doing their

jobs serving the public interest.

 

The report urges China to implement the International Covenant on Economic, Social and

Cultural Rights, which it has signed and which includes the right to form

independent trade unions.

 

“China has an opportunity to make

good on its pledges to create a more open society, and to guarantee the

oversight role of journalists and media workers,” White said.

 

“We urge the Central Government of China

and the Special Administrative Government of Hong Kong to take action to honour

their promises and live up to international standards.

 

The

IFJ report is available in English and Chinese at http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/pages/ifj-asia-pacific-reports-and-handbooks.

 

 

Investigative

Journalism Handbook for Reporters in China

 

The IFJ also launches today a handbook for journalists: Handbook for Investigative

Reporting In China.

 

The manual, designed to enhance professional

standards, provides advice to assist in protecting journalists and media professionals

in their daily work.

 

The handbook also lists Chinese laws and international

instruments which journalists can cite when contending with vexatious and

unwarranted actions from the authorities, such as surveillance, detention

and/or interrogation, or restrictions on access to public information.

 

The

handbook is available in English and Chinese at http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/pages/ifj-asia-pacific-reports-and-handbooks .

 

 

For more information on the report and the handbook:

Ms Serenade Woo: +852 9145 9145

IFJ Asia-Pacific: +61 412 984 925 or +61

2 9333 0919

 

Chinareportlaunch110130_chinese_traditional.pdf

Chinareportlaunch110130_chinese_simplified.pdf

 

The IFJ represents 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

 

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on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

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