Table of Contents

Comment Icon0 The Chinese Communist Party regulates any form of media capable of reaching a wide audience, including television, print media, radio, film, theater, text messaging, instant messaging, video games, literature books and the Internet. The government’s effort to neutralize critical online opinions usually escalates either before or after major protests, many of which would be coordinated and publicized using instant messaging services, chatrooms and text messages. Critical opinions that appear in Internet forums, blogs and major portals such as Sohu and Sina are typically erased within minutes, thanks in part to the legal liabilities placed on Internet content providers, as well as the Internet police estimated at more than 30,000 people (Watts, 2005).

Comment Icon0 To date, Reporters Without Borders ranks China’s press situation as “very serious”, which is the worst ranking on their five-point scale (2009). Meanwhile, OpenNet Initiative’s global Internet-filtering map gave China’s Internet censorship policy the ranking of “Pervasive”, with low transparency and high consistency of censorship (2009). Finally, Freedom House ranked the Chinese press as “not free”, with a low ranking of 181 out of 195, to tie with the press freedom in Iran and Rwanda (2009a).  As seen in Figure 18, this places China among the 64 countries out of 195 that are in the “Not Free” category in terms of press freedom.

Figure 18: Press freedom in the world (Freedom House, 2009b)

Comment Icon0 While the PRC recently extended regulations allowing greater freedom of movement for foreign journalists, the ruling Communist Party has generally sought to tighten control over the judiciary and domestic media coverage (Freedom House, 2009a). State control over the news media in China continues to be achieved through a complex combination of the party’s monitoring of news content, legal restrictions on journalists, and financial incentives for self-censorship. The Chinese government’s system for online regulation is elaborate enough not only to block online content, but to monitor the online activities of individuals as well. As such, it came as no surprise that Amnesty International observed that China “has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world” (Amnesty International, 2006). The offences of these people included communicating with groups abroad, opposing persecution of the Falungong, signing online petitions, and calling for reform and an end to corruption (Global Internet Freedom Consortium, n.d.). Supporting these remarks are the records of imprisonment by Reporters Without Borders.

Country Journalists imprisoned Cyberdissidents imprisoned
China 30 49
Iran 29 5
Cuba 24 0
Eritrea 17 0
Burma 15 2
Uzbekistan 8 0
Palestinian territories 4 0
Azerbaijan 3 0
North Korea 3 0
Ethiopia 3 0

Table 5: Press Freedom Barometer (Reporters Without Borders, 2009b)

Comment Icon0 As seen in Table 5, China has consistently come in first place with the most number of journalists as well as cyberdissidents imprisoned. While as many as 30 journalists have been jailed so far, this number is trumped by the 49 cyberdissidents currently locked away. Despite China having one of the largest populations in the world, the Chinese Communist Party imprisons significantly more cyberdissidents than any other country in the world, while the number of journalists jailed is relatively on par with the global standard. As seen in Figure 19, tracking the annual number of journalists arrested in China showed a norm of two arrests per year, with an exception of nine arrests in 2005. However, as seen in Figure 20, the annual number of cyberdissidents arrested in China shows a more distinct decline over the years, with the highest figure of 10 arrests back in 2003. While journalists are professionally bound and easily monitored, cyberdissidents are either learning more effective ways of evading capture, or realizing the futility of their efforts.

Figure 19: Number of journalists arrested in China annually (Reporters Without Borders, 2009b)

Figure 20: Number of cyberdissidents arrested in China annually (Reporters Without Borders, 2009b)

Chapter 7.1 – Impact of Journalists and Cyberdissidents


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