Saturday, 15 February 2014

Censoring Bad News

Press freedom around the world according to Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders has released its 2014 World Press Freedom Index and Finland topped the list for the fourth consecutive year followed by Netherlands and Norway, also the same as last year.

Meanwhile the last three positions are held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. One hundred and eighty countries were covered this year.

In North America, Canada ranks 18, while the United States is down at 46, while in Asia, Taiwan is number 50, Japan 59 and Hong Kong is 61. Where's China? Way down at 175 compared to Zimbabwe (135), Burma (145), Philippines (149) and Singapore (150).

In its report on China, RWB says:

In a speech shortly after his appointment as Communist Party general secretary in November 2012, Xi Jinping addressed journalists directly: "Friends from the press, China needs to learn more about the world, and the world also needs to learn more about China. I hope you will continue to make more efforts and contributions to deepening the mutual understanding between China and the countries of the world."

Woe to any journalist who thought he was saying "Describe China's start realities" when what he really meant was "Follow the Party's propaganda to the letter!" Since the speech, the authorities have arrested more journalists and bloggers, cracked down harder on cyber-dissidents, reinforced online content control and censorship and stepped up restrictions on the foreign media.

This past year China seems to be cracking down even more so on journalists, drying up hopes that Xi would be a more liberal leader when it came to the media.

In fact RWB's 2014 World Freedom Press Index has been censored so that the mainland doesn't even know where it stands globally in terms of press freedom.

The State Council Information Office ordered all media in China not to report on the annual index. The directive says: "All websites are kindly asked to delete the article "180 Countries Ranked in 2013 Press Freedom Index; China at 175th" and related content".

"Although this measure is not surprising, coming as it does from one of the countries that control news and information the most, we firmly condemn this act of censorship," said Benjamin Ismail, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific Desk.

"It is a perfect example of the Chinese government's policy of gagging the media and justifies China's position in the latest index, 175th out of 180 countries, a fall of two places from its position last year. We urge the authorities to withdraw this directive."

All we can say is, good luck, but it ain't happening.

However many people in China know the propaganda machine is working harder than ever these days and don't quite put much stock into state media.

Some can virtually jump over the Great Firewall and get information from outside China, while others find ways to physically get themselves out of the country to see what's really going on, mainly in the name if education.

It's becoming more and more of a farce.

How do Chinese leaders live with themselves, knowing what they're doing is a lame attempt at covering up the truth?

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