Chinese authorities attack press freedom with Draft Cyber Security Law

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today recommended revisions to the new PRC Cyber Security Law (Draft Cyber Security Law) unveiled by the Law Committee of the National People’s Congress of China (NPC) on July 6. The IFJ is deeply concerned about the Draft Cyber Security Law, which if enacted and implemented in its current form, will further suppress freedom of the press and deny citizens the right to information.

The proposed legislation is in direct violation of the General Comments of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the People’s Republic of China became a signatory to in 1998.

In the Draft, Section 20, Chapter 3, maintains the current ‘authenticity system’ (real-name registration) for online users, which poses a serious concern for media outlets and their duty to protect sources. Despite its implementation in 2012, the authenticity system remains out of line with key international guidelines on cyber security.

Section 50, Chapter 5 also allows all levels of government to implement temporary limitations on internet use and communication systems. The IFJ believes such arbitrary restrictions will have a detrimental impact on the reporting of incidents of public interest, directly jeopardises freedom of the press.

The IFJ respectfully requests the Standing Committee to make the following amendments to the Draft Cyber Security Law:

1.         Provide precise definitions for terminology used in Section 9 under Chapter 1.

2.         Delete Section 20, Chapter 3, which contradicts the General Comments No. 34 of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

3.         Delete Section 50, Chapter 5, which violates Article 19 of the ICCPR.

To ensure individuals become responsible Internet users, the IFJ recommends that the NPC implement a strong public education program.

The IFJ contends that a good law should be clear, precise and will appropriately balance the rights and duties of government and individuals. A well-crafted law will avoid any ambiguity and assist the government in the task of good governance for the future.

We urge Zhang Dejiang and Li Shishi, Chairmen of the NPC Standing Committee and Law Committee respectively, to adopt our submissions and uphold press freedom and freedom of information as prescribed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In January 2015, the IFJ released its annual China press freedom report, CHINA’S MEDIA WAR: Censorship, Corruption & Control, which detailed the growing challenges online for China’s media. Read the report online.   

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries

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