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China

2011


New York, December 23, 2011 --- The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns China's harsh sentencing of online journalist and activist Chen Wei, who was handed a nine-year prison term on Friday for "inciting subversion."

In the next three months, users of China's microblog weibo.com --- "weibo" is the generic Chinese term for Twitter-like platforms --- run by the huge sina.com (the English site is here) news portal, entertainment and blogging site, will have to start providing their real-world identities to the site, instead of simply being able to register. It seems likely the users of competitor tencent.com (English here) will have to do the same, though the government hasn't made that clear in recent announcements, dating back to December 16.

New York, December 14, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of jailed Chinese journalist Huang Jinqiu. The journalist was freed on October 20, but delayed the announcement until Tuesday because authorities had told him not to seek publicity at the time, according to news reports.

Stark regional differences are seen as jailings grow significantly in the Middle East and North Africa. Dozens of journalists are held without charge, many in secret prisons. A CPJ special report

Journalists reporting on protests and civil unrest face a rising threat of detention. Here, Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian journalist. (Reuters)


Uighur journalists who covered protests such as this one in 2009 were sentenced to harsh prison terms. (AP)

For the first time in more than a decade, China is not the world's worst jailer of the press in CPJ's annual census of imprisoned journalists. Among the 27 jailed in China, one group has seen a massive jump in imprisonments. In another first since CPJ began taking its census, more than half of those behind bars for reporting in China are ethnic Uighur or Tibetan. What's more, two Uighur journalists have been unaccounted for since their scheduled 2011 release. The lack of information available about these cases is added proof that they were arrested to deprive their communities of a voice. 

Defending the middle ground of online journalism

It's easy to use polarizing descriptions of online news-gathering. It's the domain of citizen journalists, blogging without pay and institutional support, or it's a sector filled with the digital works of "mainstream media" facing financial worries and struggling to offer employees the protection they once provided. But there is a growing middle ground: trained reporters and editors who work exclusively online on projects born independent of traditional media. They share many of the practices of an older generation of reporters, but their work draws from the decentralized and agile practices of the digital world. 

A new set of media regulations in China is attempting to control the growing influence of social media users. (AFP)

China's latest media regulations, issued Thursday in a bid to take some steam out of microblogs that increasingly drive the country's news agenda, signal an increased role for the state in drafting and enforcing press standards.

Wednesday's post, "Advice for colleagues on the digital front lines," offered practical advice for keeping a website up and running in a hostile political environment. But such measures are not universally applicable. Sky Canaves, CPJ's new East Asia and Internet consultant in Hong Kong, sent this reality check for Internet writers in China, where tighter government scrutiny has driven online users to turn to other tactics.

It's not clear whether Beijing will require licensing of social media sites or users to register under their real names. (Reuters)

In the latest sign of increasing pressure on Chinese companies to tighten control of the Internet, Chinese authorities convened an unusual seminar in Beijing for senior executives of 39 major enterprises involved in Internet services, technology and telecommunications.

New York, October 31, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the imprisonment of two Tibetan writers, one of whom was sentenced after a year of detention without trial, according to reports.

The China Internet Information
Center counted 420 million Internet users in China in the middle of 2010. (AP)

Along with cracking down on what it considers trashy TV --- China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said Tuesday that it will limit entertainment and add more news and other programs that "build morality and promote the core values of socialism" -- the government is going after what it calls rumor mongers on the Internet. The BBC and others reported on the Internet crackdown after the official Chinese news agency Xinhua released a short item on Tuesday, announcing that three people had been detained or arrested for publishing incorrect information, or "spreading rumors online," as Xinhua put it.

New York, September 20, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Saturday's fatal stabbing of a TV journalist and calls on Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into possible journalism-related motives.

New York, August 29, 2011--A Chinese microblog's announcement that it suspended two accounts for spreading rumors may be an attempt to rein in online news reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

In Hong Kong, a protester holds a portrait of the jailed writer Liu Xianbin. (Reuters)

Three Chinese writers who have spent time in prison for articles published online are suing California-based Cisco Systems Inc., according to international news reports. The suit accuses the company of providing information and technology to Chinese authorities that facilitated the writers' detentions--allegations that Cisco flatly denies. Chinese security officials have already interrogated one of the plaintiffs, according to his lawyer. Will the case against Cisco protect him and others in China from further repercussions? 

New York, August 19, 2011--The demotion of a magazine president and suspension of an editor for an interview deemed critical of a Communist Party legend are the latest punitive steps taken by authorities against mainstream journalists in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Thousands of demonstrators called for the closure of a chemical plant on Sunday, but coverage of the rally disappeared online. (Reuters)

New York, August 15, 2011--Information authorities in China should cease censorship of environmental protests in Liaoning province, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

New York, August 11, 2011--Authorities should cease the residential surveillance of writer Ran Yunfei and allow him to communicate freely following his release from jail this week, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Ran has been forbidden from speaking publicly, according to The Associated Press.
Wreckage from the July 23 train crash. (Reuters)

New York, August 2, 2011--The suspension of a state television producer for his coverage of last week's fatal train crash sends a disturbing message to Chinese media outlets, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Information authorities intensified media restrictions at the end of last week in an effort to restrain the unusually probing media treatment of the July 23 disaster. But their initial propaganda directives were widely ignored and the railway ministry's response to the crash launched a flood of online criticism.

New York, August 1, 2011--Chinese propaganda authorities renewed their orders to media groups late Friday not to report on last week's train crash or its aftermath after their initial bans on coverage were widely disregarded, according to international news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists said today that popular outcry in China at the crash is a sign that propaganda orders cannot suppress public opinion.

New York, July 26, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a hacking attack on a Chinese journalist's e-mail account reported by her employer on Saturday. The attack originated from a region of China where the journalist was investigating child trafficking. 

Chinese rescue workers by the wreckage of train cars in Wenzhou on Sunday. (AP/Color China Photo)

New York, July 25, 2011--Information authorities should allow open reporting on Saturday's high-speed rail crash in Zhejiang province, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Schlesinger (Reuters)

CPJ board member David Schlesinger, who is the chairman of Thomson Reuters in China, delivered a speech today at a conference sponsored by Caixin magazine. He touched on several current issues, and found lessons in the News of the World case that are relevant to journalists everywhere. And I particularly like his description of China's media which, for all CPJ's criticism, remains dynamic and growing.

Here's 
Schlesinger's address
.

Veteran investigative journalist Wang Keqin has always been positive about his chosen career, characterizing media restrictions in China as a cycle with ups and downs. In an interview for CPJ's October 2010 special report "In China, a debate on press rights," he told CPJ that "there was a big fall-off in reporting freedom in 2008 and 2009" because of the Olympics and the 60th anniversary of Communist Party rule. But he and many of his colleagues in China anticipated a corresponding loosening of restrictions to follow, pushing the industry toward greater freedom and professionalism over time.  

In Shanghai, a promotional poster for "Revival." (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

The creators of "Beginning of the Great Revival," a new film about the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, have spared no expense to make it a popular success. Done in a popular Chinese soap opera style, the movie features more than 100 stars, along with leading directors and producers. Then, the government enlisted information authorities to wipe out negative news coverage, according to international media reports.  

A screenshot of Wang Keqin's blog, which has had no mention of the politicized reshuffling at his newspaper.

New York, July 19, 2011--Reports that the Beijing-based China Economic Times has closed its investigative news unit are a concerning sign that pressure is mounting on hard-hitting media outlets in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Police in Hong Kong crack down on a pro-democracy protest--and journalists who tried to cover the event. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

As a former resident of the Special Administrative Region, the classification given Hong Kong when it reverted to China's control in 1997, I've always watched the media there with the appreciative eye of a news consumer. The concept of "One Country, Two Systems," put forward to explain how the former British colony's capitalist economy and post-colonial administration were going to mesh with China's authoritarian government, was always suspect. A major concern was that China would eventually have to crack down on Hong Kong's free-wheeling media.  

At a Beijing exhibition, a portrait of Jiang and a security guard. (Reuters)

Sina's Twitter-like microblog platform Weibo blocked searches for "death," "river" and "301 Hospital" on Wednesday, according to The Wall Street Journal website. The company was responding to what Reuters reported was the service's most-discussed topic yesterday--the rumored demise of former President Jiang Zemin, whose surname, Jiang, means "river," and who may or may not have suffered a heart attack that was being treated at top leaders' hospital of choice in Beijing. 

New York, July 6, 2011--The closed-door sentencing of a Tibetan magazine editor jailed without charge for over a year is another disturbing indicator of the lack of due process allowed to ethnic minority journalists in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Sarcasm reflects how aware the Chinese public has become of the dangers of adulterated food. After Japan's Fukushima nuclear crisis, a rumor circulated in China that table salt could prevent radiation. In spite of the government's efforts to curb the rumors, tons of overpriced table salt were sold overnight. Chinese netizens reassured the public in their own ironic way. Chinese people have been consuming fruit soaked in pesticides, waste cooking oil, and pork tainted with chemicals for years, online commenters notes. In 2008, milk powder spiked with the chemical melamine caused sickness and death among young children. Nuclear radiation, in this light, seems less worrisome.  

New York, June 26, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of Hu Jia, the journalist and activist who was unjustly jailed in December 2007. He was freed after serving his three-and-a-half-year sentence on charges of inciting subversion.

New York, June 23, 2011--Authorities in Shandong should overturn a second prison sentence handed down to freelance journalist Qi Chonghuai just days before the end of his term, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Two of three Chinese journalists scheduled for release this month are out of jail. Artist Ai Weiwei was unexpectedly freed from extrajudicial detention on Wednesday

New York, June 22, 2011--Artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei's release from prison leaves questions unanswered about his illegal detention and other missing activists and journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The whereabouts of Ai's associate, freelance journalist Wen Tao, missing since April 3 and presumed detained, is still unknown.

Chinese police patrol Urumqi following ethic violence in July 2009. (Reuters)

Kazakhstan authorities have extradited Uighur schoolteacher Arshidin Israil to China, where officials have described him without elaboration as a "major terror suspect," according to Reuters and other news accounts. Israil and his supporters believe the detention comes in reprisal for reporting he contributed to Radio Free Asia concerning the July 2009 riots in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Israil, a native of Xinjiang, fled China after the unrest but was detained in Kazakhstan in June 2010, according to news reports. He was extradited on May 30 of this year, days after Chinese authorities censored reporting and restricted online discussion about ethnic unrest in Inner Mongolia--an autonomous ethnic region like Xinjiang.

Public health reporting is improving in China, but not fast enough. A new Human Rights Watch report on child lead poisoning in Chinese cities documents harassment of local journalists trying to cover the problem. "Journalists who reported on the lead poisoning in three of the four locations told Human Rights Watch that police had followed them or forced them to leave the area when attempting to interview people," the report says. 

Madeline Earp speaks in London on Friday on press freedom in China. (BBC)

I was in London on Friday, speaking at a seminar joint-hosted by the BBC Chinese service and the British think tank Chatham House called "Media Freedom in China and the Role of International Broadcasters." There was a lot of impassioned discussion about the range of challenges facing international broadcasters, from slashed budgets to the recent press freedom crackdown. (Chinese speakers can watch my presentation on the BBC website.)

Paramilitary police block the street during a protest in Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia. (Reuters/Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center/Handout)

New York, June 1, 2011--Authorities in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region must allow journalists to report on protests that have been ongoing for more than a week, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Here's a quick toss to a video posted on YouTube by Australian Broadcasting's reporter Stephen McDonell. He and his crew decided to confront some Chinese security types (not surprisingly they didn't identify themselves) who had been following them in Wenzhou while reporting in China. The team was covering religion, including underground or "house" churches--those not sanctioned by the government. The confrontation with McDonell's watchers in a posh hotel lobby is telling. McDonell's full story aired on May 17; you can find it at abc.net.au/foreign. And add a round of applause for the crew's cameraman Rob Hill for getting so much of the confrontation on tape. 

New York, May 23, 2011--The recent sidelining of an outspoken journalist in Guangzhou and the disappearance on Friday of a Beijing lawyer and activist known for his blog writings are the latest signs of China's deteriorating press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

New York, May 13, 2011--Amid a harsh media crackdown, Chinese authorities censored discussion of the May 12, 2008, Sichuan earthquake anniversary that referenced independent investigations into the damage, according to international news reports. CPJ interviewed filmmaker Alison Klayman about activists imprisoned for documenting official negligence which contributed to the destruction, including detained artist Ai Weiwei, to mark the anniversary. 

A still from the film of Ai Weiwei, taken in Jingdezhen, China, in 2010. (Courtesy Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry)

Three years after a devastating earthquake hit Sichuan province in May 2008, CPJ spoke to documentary filmmaker Alison Klayman. The director is working on the upcoming "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry," about the recently detained Chinese artist who documented the aftermath of the earthquake and published the names of children killed in the collapse of frail school buildings. 

The U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which concluded in Washington today, may not have produced much in the way of specific commitments on human rights issues. But media appearances surrounding the talks have provided a forum for top leaders to re-state their views in public. 

Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, left center, and others at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue today. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
China's powerful State Councilor Dai Bingguo told U.S. officials today that his country was "making progress" on human rights issues, according to Agence France-Presse. The remarks, made at the start of the two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue, do not bode well for U.S. efforts to keep human rights on the table after last month's exchange on human rights in Beijing. 

New York, May 4, 2011--Chinese authorities should clarify the whereabouts of two Chinese journalists who reported on detained artist and social commentator Ai Weiwei, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Zha Jianying discusses Ai Weiwei, pictured at left after a police attack, at the Pen World Voices Festival. (CPJ)

The stage was full of empty chairs on Thursday at "China in Two Acts," part of the five-day PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature in New York, which ended on Sunday.  A two-part program featured writer Zha Jianying speaking for the first part followed by a panel discussion in the second. The chairs, a nod to Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo's recent imprisonment, also signified the absence of Liao Yiwu, author and fellow IndePENdent Chinese PEN Center board member. Liao was barred from leaving the country, festival chair Salman Rushdie wrote in a New York Times op-ed

The world’s worst online oppressors are using an array of tactics, some reflecting astonishing levels of sophistication, others reminiscent of old-school techniques. From China’s high-level malware attacks to Syria’s brute-force imprisonments, this may be only the dawn of online oppression. A CPJ special report by Danny O’Brien

A security line outside Google's Beijing office. (AP/Andy Wong)



In our special report, "The 10 Tools of Online Oppressors," CPJ examines the 10 prevailing strategies of online oppression worldwide and the countries that have taken the lead in their use. In this accompanying podcast, CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney notes that these strategies range from sophisticated cyber-attacks to traditional brute-force techniques. Listen to the podcast on the player above, or right click here to download an MP3. (2:47)

Read CPJ's special report, "The 10 Tools of Online Oppressors."

 Michael Posner said he does not feel comforted from the response or lack of response on the recent detention of Ai Weiwei, seen here. (AP/Andy Wong)

As predicted by CPJ and many other commentators, results of the U.S.-China human rights dialogue this week are less than satisfactory. The U.S. side was more critical than it has been, but China remained defiantly deaf to foreign pressure. 

One day ahead of two-day bilateral talks with the U.S., China's Foreign Ministry rejected what it labeled "interference" in the country's internal affairs under the rubric of human rights, according to international news reports. Despite this obstructionist tone, CPJ hopes that Washington officials, led by Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner, will stick to their announced agenda--and cast it as a matter of China's own national interest.

Cyber-attacks on press up in number, down in cost

Novaya Gazeta, a leading Russian independent news outlet, has been under cyber-attack.

The last two weeks have seen a spate of denial-of-service (DOS) attacks against news sites, coordinated attempts to overwhelm outlets with fake incoming data so the sites cannot respond to legitimate users.

Among the first concerns a journalist may have on coming to China as a foreign correspondent is how to communicate with the Chinese people, the majority of whom do not speak a word of English. Finding a "news assistant" is usually the answer.

Change.org was the target of a denial of service attack that it says originated in China. (AP/Andy Wong)
Change.org is back up and running after what the site said was a cyberattack that came from within China. Here's the site's announcement that was running on its homepage earlier today:

In reporting on the Libyan conflict, China's media "emphasize only the humanitarian disasters caused by Western air bombardments, and [report] sparingly if at all on the violent suppression and massacre of the people by Qaddafi," Al-Jazeera's Beijing bureau chief, Ezzat Shahrour, writes on his blog. Chinese readers so far have been largely supportive of his viewpoint.

Why hasn't the government disclosed Ai Weiwei's status? And why aren't domestic media questioning the government? (AP/Andy Wong)

The Chinese security apparatus is kidnapping government critics, unchallenged by the domestic press. Writer Yang Hengjun, who went missing in March and has since reappeared, criticized the Chinese press this week for failing to report on his enforced disappearance. While state media are accusing the missing artist and social critic Ai Weiwei of plagiarism and being "erratic," according to UK-based The Economist, they are not questioning his apparent, unlawful detention.

We reported Thursday that Chinese media reports on Ai Weiwei have reflected his ambiguous status in Chinese law. After several days in which Ai was considered missing, the Foreign Ministry acknowledged police were investigating him for "economic crimes" although it stopped short of saying he was detained. Coverage within China remains very limited, although there have been a couple of surprising, ambivalent notes about his fate. 

New York, April 7, 2011--With China in the midst of a sweeping crackdown on public dissent, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should follow the example of Britain and Germany and call for the immediate release of detained artist and social critic Ai Weiwei and other detained journalists and dissidents, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The two countries' foreign ministries have each urged China to release Ai, according to Reuters.

New York, April 6, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on members of the European Parliament to strongly criticize the Chinese government's apparent detention of artist and social activist Ai Weiwei. The European Parliament is convening an emergency debate Thursday on Ai's disappearance, which may be the latest unlawful detention in the government's onslaught against its critics. 

New York, April 4, 2011--The disappearance of internationally renowned artist and commentator Ai Weiwei is a disturbing indicator of the extent of the government's onslaught against its critics, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Peng Xiaoyun reported her dismissal on Twitter.

New York, March 30, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the dismissal of two Guangzhou-based journalists who advocate for political reform amid tightening restrictions on free expression. While several bloggers and activists have disappeared or been detained in the last month after anonymous calls for demonstrations in support of political reform were published online, journalists in traditional media are now also being targeted, CPJ said.  

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Jiang Yu, today denied having heard of Sydney-based Chinese author and blogger Yang Hengjun, according to The Associated Press. We reported yesterday that Yang was missing, presumed to be the latest high-profile writer to fall victim to the government's aggressive roundup of critics who might respond to online calls for a Chinese "Jasmine revolution." Concern for Yang deepened today, after reports emerged that he had called his sister in Guangzhou to say he had been detained. "Having a long chat with old friends" was the pre-arranged phrase they used, AP reported. 

New York, March 28, 2011--Police indicted one online writer on anti-state charges in Sichuan today and another disappeared in Guangzhou on Sunday, according to international news reports. Both cases appear part of the Chinese Communist Party's strenuous efforts to suppress their critics and pre-empt a "Jasmine Revolution" in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.  

New York, March 25, 2011--The harsh sentencing of a pro-democracy activist and journalist is yet another example of China's growing intolerance of independent expression, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Is China censoring phone conversations?

Are Chinese mainland citizens, as has been reported, finding their telephone conversations cut off whenever they mention the word "protest?" While large-scale, real-time voice recognition is a technological possibility, it is at the edge of what is believed likely. It would certainly be revealing about the capabilities of the Chinese government if these anecdotes proved to be widespread. 

New York, March 23, 2011--Information authorities in China should restore access to a Tibetan news and blog site whose founder reports has been shuttered without explanation, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

New York, March 17, 2011--Beijing information officials should allow Aizhi, the official website of the AIDS rights group Aizhixing Research Foundation, to resume operations, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Authorities ordered the site shut down on Tuesday after it had published an open letter from a retired senior official concerning news restrictions placed on a 20th-century public health scandal.

New York, March 10, 2011--The secret sentencing of a Uighur website editor emerged this week, eight months after he was tried along with other journalists and dissidents charged in the 2009 unrest in northwestern Xinjiang, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Michael Anti's exile from Facebook over 'real-name policy'

Michael Anti's anger with Facebook grew when he heard that the company hosts a page for the dog of founder Mark Zuckerberg, seen here. (Reuters)

The Chinese journalist Michael Anti had his Facebook account deleted in January. The reason Facebook gave was that Michael Anti isn't his real, government-recorded, name--which is true. Instead, Anti is the name that he has written under for almost a decade, on his own personal blogs, and in his writing for the New York Times and other publications. It's the name on his Harvard fellowship documents. It's what his public knows him as. It's what you would search for if you were looking for his writing, or aiming to get in touch.

A Chinese policeman checks the identity of a foreign journalist, right, near the Xidan shopping district, a designated a demonstration site in an Internet call for protests in Beijing on Sunday. (AP)
Working to defend press freedom, I take it that I've hit the mark when I get censored. So I smiled today when I got an e-mail from a friend in China who said he was in the gym watching breakfast television when my face came up on CNN. I opened my mouth and the screen went blank. Chinese censors are nothing if not quick.

New York, March 7, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists rejects statements by a Chinese government official that international reporters are not being detained, attacked, and harassed in China. CPJ calls on the police to end their anti-media attempts to stop foreign journalists from reporting on possible anti-government demonstrations in what has become known as the "Jasmine Revolution." Instead, they should act in accordance with Chinese government regulations which protect their right to work freely in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Police ask journalists to leave as they cover people gathering at a planned protest site in Beijing on Feb. 20, 2011. (AP/Andy Wong)

New York, March 3, 2011--Police threats to revoke foreign journalists' visas and require advance permission for newsgathering are disturbing new efforts to restrict reporting on protests in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Chinese police stand guard near a planned protest site for the "Jasmine Revolution" on February 20 in Beijing. (AP/Andy Wong)

California-based China Digital Times (CDT) reports new Chinese-language Twitter commentators have appeared in the last week. Twitter is generally blocked in China, but heavily used by activists who access it by means of proxy networks overseas. The recent arrivals are vocal supporters of the government's efforts to tamp down nascent "Jasmine Revolution" rallies anonymously organized in Chinese cities the past two Sundays. 

New York, February 28, 2011--Chinese security officials' concerted attack on the foreign press in a busy commercial street near Tiananmen Square in Beijing Sunday is a return to the restrictions international reporters faced before they were eased in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.   
New York, February 25, 2011--China's censors tightened Internet controls and security officials harassed and detained writers and activists in the wake of an online appeal for a "Jasmine Revolution" in China, according to international human rights groups and news reports. The apparent crackdown came in advance of two top legislative meetings, the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, scheduled for March.

Men in plainclothes recently harassed at least six foreign journalists in Shandong province. Vivid news footage shoes a group pelting CNN reporter Stan Grant and his photographer with rocks when they tried to visit the home of an activist under house arrest. Brice Pedroletti from France's Le Monde, Stephane Lagarde with Radio France Internationale, and an unnamed New York Times journalist and photographer underwent similar confrontations in February, according to Agence France-Presse. 

Partisan Journalism and the Cycle of Repression

With journalists in their midst, police and protesters clash in Bangkok. (Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom)

by Bob Dietz and Shawn W. Crispin

Lal Wickramatunga's family and publishing house, Leader Publications, have paid dearly in Sri Lanka's highly charged political climate. While Leader's newspapers, including the weekly Sunday Leader, are widely known for tough, independent reporting, they have been caught up in a partisan media environment, one filled with violence and censorship. Wickramatunga's brother has been murdered, his company has been sued, and his journalists face intimidation.

Top Developments
• Cracking down on ethnic press, authorities jail Uighur, Tibetan journalists.
• Talk of media reform and press rights generates no official changes.

Key Statistic
34: Journalists imprisoned on December 1, tied with Iran for the highest figure in the world.


Operating under the strictures of the central propaganda department, official Chinese media either ignored or denounced the October 8 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to human rights defender and writer Liu Xiaobo. Authorities, who considered the award an insult, also blacked out coverage of Liu's prize on international news broadcasts from the BBC and CNN. The case highlighted significant, ongoing official censorship, and formed a backdrop for a national discussion on the potential for press reforms. Five days after the award was announced, 23 senior Communist Party members called for a sweeping overhaul of China's media censorship policies. "Our core demand is that the system of censorship be dismantled in favor of a system of legal responsibility," said the authors, largely retired party elders, many of whom held ranking positions in the media. Widely distributed by e-mail and posted on the Sina news portal, the letter criticized the propaganda department's unchecked control on news and information, calling it "an invisible black hand." Though the letter was very likely drafted before the Nobel prize was announced, its message was delivered at a moment of heightened attention.

As business relations develop between China and Taiwan, concerns are growing that Taiwan's media freedom may be compromised. The culprits include some journalists themselves, promoting China to preserve their own business interests, and Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) government, apparently attempting to exert control over the media through legislation.  

Chinese information authorities are filtering results of Chinese-language Internet searches for "Egypt" and "Cairo," according to Global Voices Online and The Wall Street Journal. The unrest raging there could prompt comparison with the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 or incite anti-government demonstrations.

New York, January 28, 2011--The Chinese government is stepping up pressure on media outlets in order to silence outspoken journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The Guangzhou-based Southern Media Group forced veteran columnist and editor Zhang Ping to resign Thursday following pressure from information authorities due to his candid commentaries, according to international news reports. 

Nicholas Kristof's Sunday column in The New York Times documents the latest in a series of tests the journalist has performed in Chinese cyberspace. The conflicting results he achieved while setting up a Chinese-language blog and micro-blog demonstrate how difficult it is to judge what censors will permit in an online space.

It is fair to report, as Agence France-Presse and others did today, that Chinese media largely avoided President Hu Jintao's comments on human rights during a Washington press conference on Wednesday. But the nature of the omission is significant. Chinese reports acknowledged that a discussion of human rights took place between Hu and U.S. President Barack Obama, but omitted the very phrase that dominated international coverage: "A lot still needs to be done," Hu finally acknowledged to reporters. And the context--Hu being challenged during a public press conference--is absent.

Reporters push Hu to respond to press freedom concerns. (AP/Charles Dharapak)

Thanks to Ben Feller and Hans Nichols for raising questions about China's human rights and press freedom record. A lot of Chinese journalists are grateful, too. When we urged U.S. President Barack Obama last week to raise press freedom concerns in his meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao, we received no response. But when Feller of The Associated Press and Nichols of Bloomberg asked tough questions at the two leaders' joint press conference on Wednesday, we knew someone was listening. 

Press freedom should be on the agenda for Hu's visit. (AP/Charles Dharapak)

In an open letter on January 11, CPJ asked U.S. President Barack Obama to raise the issue of jailed journalists with Hu Jintao while the Chinese leader is in Washington this week. They have plenty to talk about, but journalist freedom and security should be near the top of the agenda. 

On the heels of a brutal killing of a Chinese reporter, CPJ has asked President Obama to discuss press issues with President Hu Jintao, seen here. (Reuters)

CPJ has written to President Obama asking him to raise press freedom issues when Hu Jintao comes to the U.S. next week. China's practice of restricting and imprisoning reporters domestically has serious implications for the U.S.-China relationship, and a concerning case last month suggests it may be getting worse. 

New York, January 13, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists mourns the death on December 31 of Zhang Jianhong, the founder of Aiqinghai (Aegean Sea), a popular website closed by the Chinese government in 2006, according to several human rights groups. Zhang had been sentenced to six years in prison by a court in Ningbo in the eastern province of Zhejiang in March 2007, charged with "incitement to subvert the state's authority" for calling for political reform in articles he posted online. 

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Killed in China

2 journalists killed since 1992

2 journalists murdered

2 murdered with impunity

Attacks on the Press 2012

19 Jailed Uighurs and Tibetans, which is more than half of the 32 jailed journalists.

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Bob Dietz

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