Global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade, according to a Freedom House report released on May 1. The share of the world’s population with media rated “Free” is only 14 percent, whereas 42 percent live in media environments considered “Partly Free” and 44 percent “Not Free”.
The index, which includes analysis reports and ratings for 197 countries and territories, uses a press freedom score from 0 (best) to 100 (worst) based on a set of 23 methodology questions divided into three subcategories. Countries are then given the category designation of “Free”, “Partly Free” or “Not Free”.
Surprise: China’s score of 84 placed the country in the latter category, which Freedom House attributed specifically to the government’s ongoing crackdowns on online speech and its interference with foreign journalists—citing the 2013 stand-off between Beijing and US journalists that led to several reporters facing expulsion from the country at the end of 2013.
According to the China report:
Article 35 of the constitution guarantees freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and publication, but such rights are subordinated to the discretion of the CCP and its status as the ruling power. Moreover, the constitution cannot, in most cases, be invoked in court as a legal basis for asserting individual rights […] There is no press law that governs the protection of journalists or the punishment of their attackers. Instead, vaguely worded provisions in the penal code and state secrets legislation are routinely used to imprison Chinese citizens for the peaceful expression of views that the CCP considers objectionable.
The report referenced the Chinese government’s battle to wipe out “online rumors” in latter half of 2013 (ongoing), which eventually led to new guidelines stating that if a post on social media contains content deemed defamatory and is reposted more than 500 times, the user can get up to three years in jail. It then went on to cite the case of Charles Xue, an online activist who was accused of rumormongering last year and conveniently arrested for soliciting prostitutes around the same time.
You can read the entire China report here and check out how China stacks up compared to other countries on this graph.