(TibetanReview.net, May03, 2014) – The global media freedom fell to its lowest level in a decade in 2013, with China’s record hitting another low, said Washington-based Freedom House May 2 in its latest annual survey. China dropped to 84 points from 83 in 2012, on a scale which measures a score of zero as “the most free” and 100 as “the least free.”
The survey analysis report said Chinese authorities sought to control news content, largely through the physical harassment of journalists covering sensitive news stories, restrictions on foreign reporters and tightened constraints on online news outlets and social media.
Freedom House, which has been conducting annual surveys since 1980, said Beijing shut down the accounts of influential bloggers and in some cases detained them and forced them to publicly repent for their writings.
The report designated China “not free” to the press and called it “home to the world’s most sophisticated censorship apparatus.”
The report said there had been notable successes for free speech despite official clampdowns. “Despite the robust censorship system, journalists, grassroots activists, and ordinary Internet users have continued to use creative means to expose official wrongdoing, in some cases forcing the authorities to offer concessions, such as the dismissal of corrupt officials and the closure of a notorious labor camp.”
“However,” the report continued, “Chinese citizens’ ability to share and access uncensored information, particularly about breaking news, suffered an overall setback in 2013.” It added that officials targeted netizens following a presidential speech in August urging cadres to reassert ruling Chinese Communist Party dominance over online public opinion. This was followed by the issuance of new judicial guidelines in September which expanded the criminalization of online speech and a growing number of arrests had “an immediate and palpable chilling effect on [internet-based] discourse, surpassing previous government attempts to increase control over social media, and contributing to China’s score decline.”
The domestic print and broadcast media were also tightly controlled in China. Several journalists deemed to have violated censorship guidelines faced dismissal or forced resignations, the report said.
Foreign media also “encountered heightened pressure,” as the websites of critical international outlets remained blocked and China declined to renew or threatened to withhold visas for prominent reporters from companies, including Reuters, Bloomberg and the New York Times, the report added.
The report noted that Tibetans, Uyghurs, Falun Gong practitioners, and other persecuted groups “continued to face especially harsh treatment for their efforts to share information that departs from the official line.” And it added, “Dozens and possibly hundreds of people in ethnic minority regions were detained for allegedly spreading online rumors on various topics in 2013.”