Image credit: James Griffiths. Photo via: Vice.
Freedom House has published its annual index ‘Freedom of the Press 2013: A Global Survey of Media Independence‘ and its verdict on China is not good.
In the report’s rankings of global press freedoms, China comes in at 179 of 196 countries, with a score of 83 (higher = less free), a dubious achievement it shares with DR Congo and Gambia.
In its country report on China, Freedom House states that:
China’s media environment remained one of the world’s most restrictive in 2012. Constraints on print media were especially tight in advance of a sensitive leadership transition in November, and several journalists were dismissed or demoted for violating censorship discipline. Internet users who disseminated information deemed undesirable by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continued to face punishment, with dozens of cases of harassment, detention, or imprisonment documented during the year. Meanwhile, conditions in Tibetan areas and for foreign journalists deteriorated. The promotion of a hard-liner formerly responsible for the regime’s system of information controls to the top party leadership body, combined with measures to reinforce internet censorship and surveillance toward the end of the year, indicated the new CCP hierarchy’s commitment to retaining a tight grip on the information landscape.
CCP leaders use control of the media to propagate positive views of the party and government, while vilifying those deemed to be their enemies. During 2012, the authorities continued to employ more subtle means to “guide” news coverage. These included proactively setting the agenda by allowing key state-run outlets to cover potentially damaging news in a timely but selective manner, then requiring other media to restrict their reporting to the established narrative. The aim is to preempt less favorable coverage by bloggers, foreign journalists, and the more aggressive commercial news outlets. This strategy was evident in the tightly scripted coverage of the trials of Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, and former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun in connection with the murder of a British businessman
Conditions for foreign media in the country remained highly restrictive, and harassment and violent assaults against foreign reporters escalated during the year
Responding to Freedom House’s findings, Libby Liu, President of Radio Free Asia, said:
Sadly, there are no surprises here. Especially troubling in this year’s survey is the noticeable decline in Hong Kong’s media environment, which may be interpreted as a distressing indicator of things to come.
Hong Kong was highlighted by the report as a point of concern due to “growing government restrictions on journalists’ access to information and several violent and technical attacks against reporters, websites, and media entities” there.
Read Freedom House’s China report in full: