Media owners' reluctance to draw China's disfavor imperils the ability of the Hong Kong and Taiwanese press to play a watchdog role. By a CPJ Contributor
Despite expectations for greater transparency after President Xi Jinping took office in March, Beijing continued to try to suppress information on a broad range of issues. A CPJ report in March found that the government struggled to cope with ever more pervasive digital platforms that Chinese citizens used to express themselves. In September, authorities once again tightened social media controls. Under the new rules, people who posted comments deemed libelous and that were reposted 500 or more times faced defamation charges and up to three years in prison. Subsequently, hundreds of social media users including some journalists were arrested although most were released by the end of 2013. China ranked third on CPJ's annual census of journalists imprisoned around the world, behind only Turkey and Iran. Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist who was given a 10-year prison sentence in 2005, the first high-profile conviction for online activity, was released from prison in August, 15 months before the end of his term. CPJ research has shown that most jailed journalists serve their full sentences. A survey by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said reporting conditions had worsened over the past year, as the Chinese government "increasingly resorted to threats and intimidation against foreign media."
Late in 2013, Time's Hannah Beech posted a great blog on the magazine's website around the time that about 24 foreign journalists were worried that the visas allowing them to work in China might not be approved: "Foreign Correspondents in China Do Not Censor Themselves to Get Visas," she told readers. She's right, of course, and some more proof that they won't dial back their coverage arose last week.
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