By Lobsang Tenchoe
DHARAMSALA, Dec 20: For the second year in a row, China has retained the tittle of the world’s biggest prison for journalists, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its annual report.
“China continues to be the world’s biggest prison for journalists (all categories combined) and continues to improve its arsenal of measures for persecuting journalists and bloggers,” the Paris-based watchdog said in its annual report on press freedom published on Dec 19.
RSF’s report stated that journalists in China meet with slow death behind bars. “The government no longer sentences its opponents to death but instead deliberately lets their health deteriorate in prison until they die,” the report said.
“Nobel Peace laureate Lui Xiaobo, who was also a RSF Press Freedom laureate, and the blogger Yang Tongyan were both diagnosed with terminal-stage cancer this year while serving long jail sentences and died shortly after being transferred to hospital,” the report added.
China is reported to have 52 journalists currently under detention, the highest number in the world. China, along with Turkey (43), Syria (24), Iran (23) and Vietnam (19) accounts for nearly half of the world’s imprisoned journalists.
The watchdog further expressed its concern for the life of Huang Qi, the founder of the 64 Tianwang news website and winner of the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2004.
“The international community now fears for the life of Huang Qi, who is being subjected to beatings and denial of medical care in a Mianyang detention center in an attempt to force him to plead guilty,” the report said.
Compared to the 2016 record, RSF has recorded a decrease in the number of citizen journalists detained in China as well as worldwide, but the watch dog has added, “the lack of information about the fate of journalists complicates the compiling of statistics.”
China also topped the list last year with 103 detained journalists, the highest confirmed statistic.