Hong Kong press freedom in “free fall” as repression of journalism in China goes global, Reporters Without Borders says

A prominent international media watchdog says press freedom in Hong Kong is in “free fall” as it expresses concern at the growing sophistication with which the Communist Party of China exercises media censorship.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ‘s latest report on China, titled “Journalism’s Great Leap Back in China,” was released on Tuesday and contains a section devoted to Hong Kong with the headline: “Hong Kong: Freedom of the press in free fall. “

Archive photo: Studio Incendo.

“The repression no longer spares Hong Kong, once champion of press freedom, where a growing number of arrests are now carried out in the name of national security”, writes Christophe Deloire, secretary general of RSF, in the preface of the report.

He highlights Beijing-imposed National Security Law as “a crackdown on independent media” in the city, saying it “gave the Hong Kong government a pretext to prosecute at least 12 journalists … and to shut down Apple Daily, the largest Chinese daily in the territory. linguistic opposition journal.

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai and former newspaper reporters Claudia Mo and Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam, as well as freelance reporter Wilson Li Chung-chak, were described in the report as “victims of the law. on national security “.

“In order to please the Chinese regime, Hong Kong Managing Director Carrie Lam targets press freedom symbols such as the RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong) public media group and turns a blind eye to violence against journalists, ”RSF added in the press release. report.

Police violence and mob attacks were cited as examples of physical violence suffered by Hong Kong reporters. The report included the case of Veby Mega Indah, who permanently lost sight in her right eye after being hit by a rubber bullet, and Gwyneth Ho with three other reporters, who were assaulted during Yuen’s long attacks in 2019. .

The report also cites Citizen News, InMedia, StandNews and Hong Kong Free Press as examples of local media that are going against the trend and resisting censorship.

Technology “designed for repression”

“This ‘great leap back’ in journalism in China is all the more terrifying that
the regime has immense financial and technological resources to achieve its objectives, ”the report’s foreword indicates.

RSF said Beijing was taking advantage of technological advances to strengthen its control and surveillance of information.

File photo: Kelly Ho / HKFP.

The report also mentions the successful development of an AI text censorship system announced in April, which would be “able to learn on its own and adapt to changes in the language of Internet users.”

Since 2019, in order to renew their press identifications, Chinese journalists have been forced to download the “Study Xi, Strengthen the Country” application. According to the report, a German cybersecurity company revealed that the app has the ability to spy on users.

“By equipping itself with unprecedented technological means, the Chinese Communist Party has set itself the goal of building a model of society in which access to information is no longer a right, but a crime,” the report said. by RSF.

Export Chinese story

The watchdog warned democracies that China was successfully exporting its media model to the rest of the world.

RSF said China’s developed media had “managed” to reach an international audience, citing the availability of Chinese state broadcaster CGTN’s television programs in more than 160 countries and China Radio International’s broadcasts in 44 languages.

In addition to increasing state media exposure, RSF found that Beijing was making efforts to impose “Chinese history” on various fronts, including social media propaganda campaigns and strategic inserts. in major international newspapers.

The report cites a joint New York Times and ProPublica investigation revealing a propaganda campaign, which includes more than 3,000 YouTube videos depicting Uyghur life in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region “in a strangely positive light.”

RSF 2021 China Report: Journalism’s Great Leap Back in China by HKFP on Scribd

RSF said China has invested heavily in publishing editorial supplements in major foreign newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal in the United States, the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom and Le Figaro in France, via a think tank and a publication named China Watch.

The report summarized other tactics the Chinese regime has deployed to disseminate its story as well, including lobbying through diplomats, disinformation campaigns, and the use of internet trolls and foreign influencers.

At the end of the report, RSF called on democratic countries to implement regulations and sanctions to ensure that all media in all countries are subject to the same obligations, “concerning in particular the honesty, independence and pluralism of information and respect for human dignity. “

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