Reporters Without Borders release damning report on Chinese regime's repression against journalism; India ranks 142 out of 180 countries
Not even border and nationality considerations restrain the Chinese regime, which currently detains three foreign journalists on charges of espionage, the report said.
PARIS: Since President Xi Jinping came to power in early 2013, a wave of arrests unprecedented since the end of the Maoist era has hit journalists and political commentators across China, abruptly ending a decade of experimentation with pluralism and debate in Chinese media, said a major report released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday.
The 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index ranks the People's Republic of China 177 out of 180 countries, only two spots above North Korea, with at least 127 journalists and press defenders under detention. India ranks 142 and Pakistan 145 while North Korea and Eritrea are ranked 179 and 180.
"Two years after China's Pursuit of a New World Media Order, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) publishes The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, a report revealing the extent of the regime's campaign of repression against the right to information," the media watchdog said.
According to the RSF, "published a year before the Chinese Communist Party's 20th National Congress, which will take place at the end of December 2022, The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China is a damning 82-page document that demonstrates the acceleration of China’s violations against its own international commitments to freedom of opinion and expression. The report, released on December 7, reveals the unprecedented campaign of repression led by the Chinese regime in recent years against journalism and the right to information worldwide."
RSF’s secretary general, Christophe Deloire, in the forward to the media watchdog's report, said before Xi came to power in 2013, there was an emerging trend of improvements in press freedom, but he had “put a brutal end to this partial opening and restored a media culture worthy of the Maoist era”.
He added, “This ‘great leap backwards’ of journalism in China is all the more terrifying given that the regime has immense financial and technological resources to achieve its goals."
The report recalled the arrest of investigative journalist Huang Qi in 2016 who was sentenced in July 2019 by a court to 12 years in prison for investigating human rights violations committed by Chinese officials. On April 30, 2020, journalist Chen Jieren, a former Chinese state media employee, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Guiyang People’s Court for revealing facts of corruption implicating a number of Communist Party officials. In July 2018, cartoonist Jiang Yefei, known for his satirical cartoons, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison, while well-known journalist and defender of press freedom Qin Yongmin was sentenced to 13 years in prison for “subversion”.
Non-professional journalists are also not immune from prosecution. Not even border and nationality considerations restrain the Chinese regime, which currently detains three foreign journalists on charges of espionage, the report said.
"In 2017, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize and 2004 RSF Press Freedom Award laureate Liu Xiaobo and blogger Yang Tongyan both died from untreated cancers while in detention. According to RSF’s count, at least ten press freedom defenders currently detained in China face impending death if not immediately released."
Further, Uighur journalists and bloggers appear to face harsher sentences than their Han Chinese counterparts, like Ilham Tohti, an economist and founder of the website Uyghur Online who was sentenced to life in prison for “separatism” in 2014.
On the surveillance of the internet, the report noted that on November 2 2021, on Chinese social network Sina Weibo, international tennis champion Peng Shuai accused a former member of the Standing Committee of the Party's Political Bureau and former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of rape. In less than 30 minutes, her post and all associated public comments were deleted and the athlete's account was removed from the search engine. The censors are trying, by all means, to cover up a scandal that risks splashing the upper echelons of power. Peng Shuai herself was later reportedly placed under house arrest.
According to AlJazeera, the release of the report coincided with the first anniversary of the detention of Haze Fan, a news assistant for New York-based Bloomberg News, who was taken away by plain-clothes police officers in Beijing last year. On Tuesday, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said the media group was “very worried about her well-being” after 12 months of detention.