Press Freedom in China
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) initiated a program in early 2008 to monitor and report on press freedom and violations of media rights in China in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing in August 2008. The IFJ’s first annual report on press freedom in China, China’s Olympic Challenge, assessed the media environment through 2008 and, even as it noted many instances of infringements of journalists’ rights and media freedom, there was some optimism at year’s end that China was moving, if slowly, toward a freer, safer and more secure working environment for local and foreign journalists. To see a map of Press Freedom violations in China from 2008 to the present visit this website.
In 2011, the situation was frustrating. Many journalists were sacked or forced to leave their original workplaces as the scent of the “Jasmine Revolution” spread from the Middle East to China in February that year.
Unfortunately, the frustrating situation continued into 2012, after a number of so-called sensitive cases arose. Media workers were liable to receive more than a dozen restrictive orders a day. Journalists were ordered to leave reporting areas because the authorities thought the news could create instability in society. Many websites were forced to shut down.
The authorities began to appreciate the importance of procedure in presenting an “open” image to the world. However all such moves were fake.
Overseas correspondents in China experienced the greatest challenges in 2012. On one hand, a foreign correspondent was asked to leave China and the correspondent’s office was suspended. On the other, the authorities used the content of reports to determine which correspondents’ working visas would be continued. At the same time, the Chinese authorities immediately shut down two international media outlets after they revealed some negative reports about the leaders of China.
Hong Kong media faced unprecedented pressure in 2012. Media outlets were attacked by thugs and journalists were detained by police after posing questions to the President of China. In addition, a journalist was hit with criminal charges when he exercised his duties.
The most disturbing development was that the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and his cabinet adopted an evasive approach to the media. They failed to exercise transparency, a traditional good governance practice. The media also received tremendous political pressure from the China Liaison Office, the agent of the Central Government of China in Hong Kong.
The Macau media also faced tremendous challenges with the escalation of self-censorship in the industry, which aroused significant protests. However the IFJ welcomed the government of Macau’s decision to withdraw a proposal to set up a government-backed press council after a large survey was conducted in media industry and the public in 2011-12. At end of 2012, China’s media environment remained in an “Ice Age”. The IFJ urged the media to remain vigilant.
The information in this report has been provided by a growing network of contributors to the IFJ monitoring project, from Mainland China and beyond. Many of these contributors must remain anonymous. But without them, this report could not have been produced.
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