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China's Media War: Censorship, Corruption & Control

February 2, 2015

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) yesterday released the seventh annual China Press Freedom Report, CHINA’S MEDIA WAR: Censorship, Corruption & Control. The report, launched at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, documents the continued challenges facing press freedom in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. It takes its title in direct response to Chinese authorities adopting more repressive measures in 2014.

During the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong that began in late September the IFJ noted at least 39 incidents in which journalists were harassed, assaulted, detained or maliciously accused by Hong Kong police and anti-Occupy Movement protesters.

Direct censorship, internet surveillance, abuse of legal processes, harassment and intimidation, televised confessions without trial are continuing to take place in China. However, online restrictions have been declining rapidly since the China Internet Security and Information Leading Group was established under the directive of President Xi Jinping. In the first meeting of the group, Xi stated that “efforts should be made to build our country into a cyber-power.”

Further online restrictions were implemented with the anti-pornography campaign of 2014, which saw 2200 websites forced to shut down and an additional 300 video channels were also forced offline. On social platforms such as WeChat, at least 20 million messages were deleted. The authorities did not provide statements on why this happened.

“Press freedom is a human right and the media must be able to perform their professional duties without fear and intimidation,” the IFJ said. “The ongoing challenge for journalists in Mainland China is not only facing a government that prevents the free dissemination of information in the public interest, but also powerful business interests that try to influence and place pressure on the media’s independence.”

Three journalists working in the Mainland and Hong Kong contributed to the report and their contributions reveal the restrictive orders and corruption of media industry in Mainland China.

The contribution discussing Hong Kong illustrates the ‘invisible black hands’ manipulating the media and the outside influence on several events during the Occupy Movement.

The 2014 report highlights the situation for media workers over the past year where Chinese authorities continued to tighten their grip on information and media outlets faced up to dozen restrictive orders a day. In 2013 The Communist Party set up a state security committee to strengthen “guidance” of public opinion and the police and the judiciary cooperated with the Central Propaganda Department to suppress online speech. Unfortunately, such “cooperation” continued in 2014. The IFJ noted that in 2014, at least 20 media workers were detained, criminally charged and in some cases were sentenced.

2014 also saw a spike in deadly incidents in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in China. However the authorities were very controlled in their sharing of information regarding the incidents, which was a clear violation of the Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Open Government Information.

Foreign correspondents were not excused from the attacks on media and repressive media landscape in 2014. There were multiple incidents of harassment, threats, detention, interference and delays in visas. However there were also incidents where the Chinese authority extended their hands to influence the editorial board of international media organisations.

The situation in Macau saw a growing trend to self-censorship. Journalists that deviated from normal practice were arrested by police, and some scholars had their jobs terminated after they exercised their rights to speak to controversial policies.

Hong Kong Media will continue to be the focus point in 2015 while the universal suffrage of Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2017 is still a hottest topic in the territory.

“As well as highlighting the pressure applied by political forces, the IFJ reminds the business sectors of the Mainland and Hong Kong that a free and independent press plays an important role in the business environment, helping companies to understand the investment situation and to formulate sound strategies,” the IFJ said.

“We continue to support all media workers to remain vigilant and fight for their professional rights and interests in China.”

For more information contact:
Ms Serenade Woo
IFJ representative
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Phone: (852) 9145 9145

IFJ Asia-Pacific
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Phone: +612 9333 0919

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