China is ‘world’s biggest prison for journalists’ for 4th year in a row: Reporters Without Borders

DHARAMSALA, 04 May: For the fourth year in a row, China has retained the title of the world’s biggest prison for journalists, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its annual report.

“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the world’s largest prison for journalists, and its regime conducts a campaign of repression against journalism and the right to information worldwide,” the Paris-based watchdog said in its annual report on press freedom published on Wednesday.

On the media landscape in China, the report adds that “major Chinese media groups, such as Xinhua News Agency, China Central Television (CCTV), China National Radio (CNR), and newspapers China Daily, People’s Daily and the Global Times, are state-owned and directly controlled by the authorities.”

The watchdog group declared that the “Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party sends a detailed notice to all media every day that includes editorial guidelines and censored topics,’ while the Chinese state-owned China Global Television Network (CGTN) and Radio China International (RCI) are being used to spread the regime’s propaganda all around the world.

Though the constitution of China guarantees “freedom of speech [and] of the press” RSF has said that “the regime routinely violates the right to information, in total impunity.”

The report added that to further silence journalists, China accuses them of “espionage”, “subversion”, or “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, three “pocket crimes’’, a term used by Chinese law experts to describe offences that are so broadly defined that they can be applied to almost any activity.

“Independent journalists can also be legally placed in solitary confinement for six months under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ (RSDL) in China’s ‘black prisons’, where they are deprived of legal representation and may be subjected to torture.” 

China reportedly holds 101 journalists in detention, the highest among all the 180 countries rated by the RSF.

As China remains the world’s biggest prison for journalists for the fourth year in a row, the report attributes it to Chinese President Xi Jinping who was in power since 2012.

Xi “has restored a media culture worthy of the Maoist era, in which freely accessing information has become a crime and to provide information an even greater crime.”

Additionally, RSF said that “China’s state and privately owned media are under the Communist Party’s ever-tighter control, while the administration creates more and more obstacles for foreign.”

According to the report, the Chinese regime uses surveillance, coercion, intimidation and harassment to keep independent journalists from reporting on issues it deems “sensitive”.

China was ranked 179, the second least free country in the world for journalists after North Korea out of 180 countries. In 2022, China was ranked 175. 

The report on press freedom of 180 countries highlights “major and often radical changes linked to political, social and technological upheavals.” Norway was ranked first for the second year in a row.

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