From Human Rights Watch’s report China’s Forbidden Zones, documenting a Chinese crackdown on the domestic and foreign press in the lead-up to next month’s Olympic Games.
The run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was supposed to be the start of a new era of media freedom in China. But the gap between government rhetoric and reality for journalists remains considerable.
Many foreign correspondents say conditions have worsened over the past year. Nearly all say that journalists continue to face significant obstacles whenever the issues on which they wish to report are deemed “sensitive” by authorities.
No-go zones for foreign journalists include the plight of citizens from the countryside who come to Beijing seeking legal redress for abuses by local officials, protests not sanctioned by the government, and interviews with high-profile human rights activists.
The government has sought to deflect criticism of its failure to deliver on commitments to media freedom by alleging that correspondents “violated professional morality, distorted facts or even fabricated news.”
The Chinese government’s Publicity Department sends weekly faxes to domestic media outlets stipulating the latest coverage restrictions. Those restrictions are typically framed in terms of avoiding issues potentially disruptive of “social stability.”
Journalists’ computer terminals at China’s national television broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), are linked to an electronic system that automatically notifies journalists of issues deemed inappropriate for news coverageArticles are thoroughly vetted, especially if they focus on events important to the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Those who try to move beyond these confines face a variety of sanctions ranging from physical abuse to job loss.
A Canadian journalist employed from April 2007 to April 08 at the English-language China Daily, the Chinese government’s flagship publication for foreign readers, described self-censorship as the norm.
“Reporters here simply know what they can and cannot write – and they don’t challenge those limitations. Change isn’t coming from the bottom and certainly isn’t coming from the top.”
For the full report, visit hrw.org.
Don’t watch the Olympic ceremoniesBurma activists are calling on the world not to watch the Olympics’ opening ceremonies as part of the Global Day of Actions for Burma on August 8, a worldwide effort to persuade China to end its support for Burma’s dictators. E-mail the Olympics’ corporate sponsors – Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, McDonald’s, Microsoft, NBC, Panasonic, Staples, UPS, Visa, Atos Origin, Adidas, BHP Billiton, Lenovo, Manulife, Samsung, Swatch and Volkswagen – at uscampaignforburma.org.