The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has revealed that China has overtaken Turkey as the worst country to work as a journalist. Turkey has been the world’s top journalist-jailer for the last four years, but this year China has achieved this dubious distinction. Even as Chinese authorities continue to curb press freedom, 48 journalists were found to be in prison in the country this year. This report comes amid the crackdown on news outlets in China, especially in view of Pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong.
According to the press freedom watchdog, freelance investigative reporter, Sophia Huang Xueqin was imprisoned in the month of October this year, after she wrote about her experience while marching with the pro-democracy protesters on her blog. This exposes the flimsy grounds on which the Dragon has been cracking down on journalists, giving absolutely no freedom to the news outlets and reporters when it comes to covering the burning issues within the country. She was arrested on charges of picking quarrels and provoking trouble, an allegation that is generally levelled against those who criticise the ruling Communist Party in China.
Apart from tightening the grip on journalists on account of the Hong Kong protests, the Chinese authorities have also cracked down on the journalists who have reported about the detention camps in China’s far-western province of Xinjiang where 1 million Uighur Muslims have been detained. This includes journalists working for the Uighur-run Kashgar Publishing House. The journalists were arrested insidiously for work done years earlier. The Xi Jinping regime however remains adamant on not mending its ways. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying could not confirm the number of journalists imposed by Beijing, however she said that no one is above the law, whether they are reporters or civil servants. Therefore, China seems to be insistent on continuing with the high-handed and undemocratic approach that it has taken up against journalists. She even went on to claim that 600 foreign jornalists are working happily in China in an attempt to play down the unsafe atmosphere for journalists in the country.
Turkey, which has been overtaken by the Dragon has not remained far behind China either with 47 journalists incarcerated in the country by the Erdogan regime. The number was even higher at 68 last year. The Erdogan regime has been systemically curbing free speech and press freedom in the country, having repressed independent journalism and shut down more than 100 media outlets. The press advocacy group has also made it clear that the reduction in the number of journalist prisoners within Turkey does not signal an improved situation for journalism under the Erdogan regime.
Some other countries that have emerged as top journalist jailers are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea and Vietnam. However, none of these countries have such a poor track record as China and Turkey. Saudi Arabia which itself faces a miserable human rights track record and poor level of press freedom, for example, has 26 imprisoned journalists well short of the 47 and 48 journalists incarcerated in Turkey and China respectively.
It is ironical that despite such poor press freedom, including arrests over reporting on pro-democracy protests and detention camps, these two countries have been rather instrumental in pursuing the agenda of making fake allegations about human rights violations in Kashmir. Only months ago, both these countries were expressing concern about the human rights of Kashmiri people. However, the CPJ report has exposed their reality. China and Turkey are absolutist regimes which do not only curb individual freedom and liberty, but also resort to complete crackdown on news outlets, at a scale peculiar to these countries.