China may soon not have a single free journalist left, damning report finds

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A citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan, traveled to Wuhan in February last year and spoke on his smartphone about the COVID-19 pandemic and the authorities’ handling of it. In May, Chinese authorities detained him and in December he was sentenced to four years in prison.

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his allegation? “raising fights and instigating trouble” for posting videos on YouTube about the pandemic. The United Nations last month joined several organizations around the world urging Chinese authorities to release the 38-year-old.

Ms Zhang’s family has said that with her health rapidly deteriorating after going on a hunger strike in prison, she may be close to death. Her brother Zhang Xu tweeted that: “She’s so stubborn. I guess she can’t live long. If she doesn’t do it in the cold, I hope the world remembers her the way she does.” She was


According to a new report from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Ms Zhang is one of “at least 10 press freedom defenders” currently in prison in China. Great leap behind journalism in China, The RSF says he will face “imminent death” if not released immediately.

Their cases are part of an alarming decline in press freedom in China, including the expulsion of foreign correspondents and a particularly dramatic deterioration in the situation in Hong Kong, the city falling from 18th place on the RSF’s Press Freedom Index in 2002 to 80 in 2021. Has come in th place. Overall, China is ranked 177 out of 180 – just two places above North Korea.

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The new RSF report finds that there are currently at least 127 journalists detained in China – a quarter of all journalists detained worldwide.

“We are certainly calling on the Chinese regime to release them immediately,” said Cedric Alviani, head of the RSF’s East Asia bureau. “But, in the long run, our fear is that if this continues in China, there will not be a single independent journalist left in China because the information system will be so rigged.”

They told Granthshala Journalists, writers and bloggers are under tremendous pressure to follow the government’s line in everything they write, saying the best example of another country where this happens is North Korea. “China is definitely going in that direction,” he said.

RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire said China was becoming a “nightmare” for journalists. “The renewal of the press credentials of Chinese journalists is now subject to the examination of the president’s knowledge of the ‘idea’ and his footprint on social networks,” he said. “In the frenzy of its control, the regime is also considering banning private media in the near future. this is a nightmare.”

The RSF report highlights several cases of media persons killed in custody in China. They include Kunchok Jinpa – a tour guide and a major news source from Tibet. The 51-year-old died in a hospital in Lhasa earlier this year, less than three months after being transferred from prison without his family’s knowledge.

Sophie Richardson, director of the China program at Human Rights Watch, called the death of Kunchok Jinpa “another serious case of the mistreatment of a wrongfully imprisoned Tibetan”. The Chinese authorities responsible for the arbitrary detention, torture or abuse and the deaths of people in custody must be held accountable.

Then there are the cases of Nobel Peace Prize winner, author and activist Liu Xiaobo and blogger Yang Tongyan – both of whom died of untreated cancer while in custody in 2017.

The report described how Chinese media outlets and Internet companies are bound to follow Communist Party directives, especially when it comes to issues that are considered “sensitive” – such as on Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan Reporting, corruption and social unrest. It said that “the propaganda department of the Communist Party of China, which controls the actions of 14 ministries, sends to the media a daily list of topics to be highlighted and another list of subjects that they should be subject to sanctions.” should not be covered under the penalty of

The report featured Hong Kong prominently, with the new national security law adopted in June last year becoming a tool for the suppression of independent voices in the name of the fight against “terrorism, secession, treason and collusion with foreign forces” – Four charges the RSF said were frequently used against journalists on the mainland. Journalists detained include business tycoons and founders of Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai, along with several senior editors at the now-defunct news outlet.

And foreign correspondents have found their jobs frustrated by Chinese officials, with many veteran journalists from Western outlets denied visas and evicted from the country this and last year. In a statement, China’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club said the country used the coronavirus pandemic as another way to “significantly fail the work of foreign correspondents in China”.

Mr Alviani said: “When China allowed foreign correspondents, it was a time when the country needed foreign investment and international exposure. Now times have changed and China has no need, it sees foreign correspondents as unwanted witnesses and tries to get rid of them.

In March this year, the Chinese government introduced a provision of Chinese criminal law that prohibits any discussion that challenges the official narrative of Chinese historical events. Two months later, former journalist and political commentator Qiu Ziming was sentenced to eight months in prison for “defaming heroes and martyrs” after questioning the violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops at the border in June last year.

The RSF report said, “On the pretext of countering the influence of hostile Western forces, China is exporting its concept of rogue journalism to serve the interests of the state and spreading its propaganda around the world through increasingly insidious means.” working for.”


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