Monday, June 23, 2014

China Putting the Squeeze on Press Freedom

Rabin Man Shakya

Nepal's powerful neighbor in the north - Peoples' Republic of China - may be the number two economy in the world after the United States, but China is also a country where the freedom of the press has been muffled continuously.

China, where over 2,200 newspapers and 7,000 magazines and journals are published today, has also earned notoriety as the world's leading jailer of journalists and netizens.

According to latest news reports, China introduced new restrictions on "critical" news articles and barred Chinese journalists from doing work outside their beats or regions, putting further restraints on reporters in one of the world's most controlled news media environments.(Chinese Government Tightens Constraints on Press Freedom - The New York Times - June 20, 2014)

It is the first time Beijing has publicly issued such a wide ban  on reporting activities, according to industry insiders. One former legal-affairs director from a Chinese news magazine said it indicated increased confidence on the part of authorities in exerting their will on the Chinese media. (Beijing Puts New Limits on Media, Lawyers - The Wall Street Journal - June 19, 2014)

The new circular would have a chilling effect, discouraging editors from touchy subjects, a Chinese journalist was quoted as saying in the news reports.

Another Chinese journalist added:"This rule is a real threat to us independent reporters. We are very angry."

The sad reality of press freedom scenario in China is that the government controlled leading newspapers: the Peoples Daily, the Beijing Daily, the Guangming Daily and the Liberation Daily all work as the tool of propaganda for the Chinese Communist Party.Likewise, the powerful Xinhua news agency, the China Central Television (CCTV) also serve as channels for government and party propaganda.

No doubt, Chinese journalism also has witnessed some qualitative as well as quantitative transformation. Journalism sector has become more commercialized in China than elsewhere. But the authorities still continue to intervene in local news outlets especially those related to sensitive political reporting.

Lately, many more Chinese journalists and netizens have been arrested by the Chinese authorities, Crackdown on cyber-dissidents and interference and control in online journalism is ever on the increase. Foreign journalists attempting to report from China face increasing restrictions from the Chinese authorities. There were also cases when international journalists were declared "persona non grata" for their reporting critical   of Beijing.

While many Chinese journalists are incarcerated by the authorities, there is a wide spread practice in the China Central Television (CCTV) broadcasting videos of confessing to having made "big mistakes" and admitting their "guilt". Such forced confessions of the journalists on CCTV is outrageous and unacceptable.

An Amnesty International report  issued recently also said that the North Korea and China were among the Asia Pacific's "worst culprits".

There is no doubt that the majority of local Chinese outlets will be hamstrung by the troubling new limits. The implementation of the new limits on Chinese journalists is testimony that China is not serious about the press freedom.

China is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index ahead of only  countries like Somalia, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. 

No comments:

Post a Comment