New counterterrorism law in China deadly for online press freedom

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expresses strong concern over the National Security Law Bill which is soon to be considered by the Standing Committee of National Congress in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">China</st1:country-region></st1:place> in March, 2015. The IFJ says the bill will extend the control of Chinese authorities over basic human rights under the guise of national security protection.

The draft counterterrorism law, in addition to the national security bill, would allow authorities the power to monitor the internet and undertake intrusion surveillance when there is a suspicion of terrorism. It also calls on media outlets to disseminate anti-terrorism information, while internet service providers are required to stop and report all terrorism related information or face punishment.

The IFJ understands the law will allow authorities to develop a digital surveillance structure to infiltrate the internet and monitor online activity and information. However, the definition of ‘anti-terrorism’ remains vague. Section 104 refers to it as ‘any illegal act intended to induce social panic, influence state policy, incite subversion of state power, disseminating separatism’s ideology and manipulating racial hatred’.

The IFJ Asia Pacific office said; “China has a responsible to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1456 (2003) in drafting their national security laws, however the counter-terrorism law does not support international human rights in their definition of ‘anti-terrorism’”.

“If new laws are aimed at the ‘national sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity’ of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">China</st1:country-region></st1:place>, then the laws should also bear the constitutional responsibilities to uphold the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”

The IFJ warns that the discretionary powers awarded to the government within the proposed ‘digital surveillance structure’ along with a broad definition of terrorism and terrorist activities will make it easy for ‘peaceful dissent’ or ‘criticism of the government’ to be included in the surveillance mandate.

“This will open up opportunities for the government to increase their surveillance of dissidents and create a culture of online and offline self-censorship for those prone to surveillance,” the IFJ said.

The IFJ 2014 Press Freedom in China Report CHINA’S MEDIA WAR: Censorship, Corruption and Control  highlighted the increasing repressive nature of control by the Chinese government against the media in 2014. Attempts to silence journalists’ offline and online were evident, while online surveillance particularly of social media outlets such as Weibo and WeChat saw thousands of messages ‘mysteriously’ deleted.

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

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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