ifex:International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 2 February 2018.
Today, the International Federation of Journalists launches the 10th edition of its annual China Press Freedom Report for 2017, entitled Ten-Year Edition: A Decade of Decline.
The IFJ China Press Freedom project has been the key monitoring and advocacy voice for journalists and media workers in China as well as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan since 2008. In its 10th edition, the IFJ report reviews this bleak period for freedom of expression. From the optimism and hope for China leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where a more free and open media was promised by China’s leaders to the world, the IFJ reports that reality on the ground is harshly different, with a continuing and disturbing decline in media freedoms in both Mainland China and Hong Kong.
“There is no doubt that China under Xi Xinping is only increasing its efforts to block the right to information and suppress freedom of speech,” the IFJ said, as it released its report to the region at an event in Hong Kong today.
“Despite China’s economic successes, which has opened up the country more than ever before, the climate for media is worsening. Today’s journalists are faced with a seemingly never-ending onslaught of restrictive orders and controls on movement as well as threats and intimidation by way of job losses, blocking of accreditation and rejection of visas in the case of foreign journalists. Combined with this, is China’s notorious reputation as one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists with an ever-growing list facing detention or already locked away in jails for their efforts to bring critical information to light.”
The IFJ recorded over 900 media violations between the years 2008 to 2017, more than 30% recorded in the Beijing Municipality alone. There were 250 incidents of censorship; more than 190 arrests, detentions and/or imprisonments; 90 restrictive orders and 80 incidents of harassment and/or threats. IFJ figures indicate there are 38 media workers currently known to be detained in China, including renowned democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo who died in custody.
Key findings of the report include:
Government control tightened: In the lead-up to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2017, a score of restrictive orders were issued, and reports and materials were taken offline. As the date neared, increasingly harsh tactics were employed including enforced disappearances, blocking of access to ‘sensitive areas’ and orders on how to report on stories relating to the party and the president.
Liu Xiaobo: The death of China’s first Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, on medical parole in July received international criticism, specifically of the government’s treatment of Liu in detention and its refusal to grant medical parole prior to his death. The government’s action after his death, in attempts to control the spread of information and the narrative, highlighted the challenge that journalists across China face reporting on sensitive topics.
Foreign intervention: The Voice of America (VOA) interview of Chinese-billionaire Guo Wengui, and then abrupt ending raised questions about the autonomy of foreign media outlets in and outside China. The subsequent investigation brought into question the power of the Chinese government and the Communist Party beyond its borders.
HK & Macau autonomy: The autonomy of Hong Kong and Macau was increasingly questioned in 2017, particularly in Hong Kong following the election of new Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who many have said was endorsed by the China Liaison Office, the official representative of the Central Government in Hong Kong. The impact of this is only starting to be felt.
The IFJ said: “Looking back on the past ten years illustrates the gross deterioration of press freedom in China led by the government. While there have been movements for greater liberty, such as the Charter 08 human rights manifesto, the Macau’s 2011 Jasmine revolution and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, the overall picture has been a bleak one for media freedom.”
“The IFJ commends the many brave journalists who work quietly and courageously, day after day, to gather and disseminate accurate information. The challenges that they continue to work through, demonstrate their fierce determination to tell the important stories. Their contributions and commitment have also enabled the IFJ to continue publishing the information that China doesn’t want the world to know as well as continue to campaign for the rights of journalists.”
“At this important juncture, the IFJ calls on all media to stand in solidarity with their Chinese colleagues, to continue to give them strength in this important and ongoing fight for freedom of expression in China.”
The IFJ said: “Ten-Year Edition: A Decade of Decline focuses on the pressure on press freedom in China, Hong Kong and Macau, while also highlighting the ever-changing ways the government of China continues to fight for control of information. We cannot forget the fight of our colleagues, who continue to adapt and evolve in the face of new and growing challenges, sharing with us the stories of grave importance.”