JISHOU, HUNAN — China’s ranking in an annual international press freedom survey remains at #176 out of 180 countries analyzed, the same position it held in 2015.
The international organization, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres – RSF), released its annual World Press Freedom Index on Wednesday, saying 2016 has been a bad year for journalists worldwide.
The Index levels especially sharp criticism of China, which continues to be among the nations with the lowest press freedom rankings.
UPDATE 4/27/2016: An editorial in the Chinese Communist Party news outlet, Global Times, scoffs at the ranking, claiming Reporters Without Borders ignores the differences between developed nations and developing nations.
The constructiveness of journalism is more important than press freedom to developing countries. This constructiveness includes press freedom and supervision of the media, however it must incorporate understanding of different local political and economic development. The purpose of journalism is not to advocate its absolute freedom, but to help advance societal progress in a suitable way.
Or, as President Xi Jinping has insisted, to serve the Party.
In its summary of the Asia-Pacific region, RSF writes:
In China (176th), the Communist Party took repression to new heights. Journalists were spared nothing, not even abductions, televised forced confessions and threats to relatives. In a recent tour of the country’s leading news organizations, President Xi Jinping said the media “must love the Party, protect the Party, and closely align themselves with the Party leadership in thought, politics and action.” He could not have made his totalitarian view of the media’s role any clearer.
Xi has been accused by several China-watchers of encouraging a “cult of personality” and central control not seen since the days of Mao Zedong. “President Xi Jiping is on RSF’s list of predators of press freedom,” the organization states in its China summary.
RSF quotes Xi at length on his “Predator” page. (Chinese version, which is blocked in China, naturally)
Meanwhile, the USA (#41) was not spared criticism either, with the RSF accusing Washington of using national security as a bludgeon against a free press.
US media freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment to the 1787 constitution, has encountered a major obstacle – the government’s war on whistleblowers who leak information about its surveillance activities, spying and foreign operations, especially those linked to counter-terrorism. Furthermore, US journalists are still not protected by a federal “shield law” guaranteeing their right not to reveal their sources and other confidential work-related information.
RSF also recognized four Chinese journalists as heroes, human rights activist Huang Qi, anti-corruption investigator Li Jianjun, newspaper reporter Liu Hu and Tibetan monk Jigme Gyatso. Of the four, Li Jianjun is the only one not currently in prison.
In its editorial, Global Times alleges that Reporters Without Borders has backing from the CIA, and has overstated the number of its employees. It cites French writer Maxime Vivas, who has written critical books about RSF, Western attitudes toward Tibet, and the Dalai Lama.
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