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RFA: China Jailed More Journalists in 2023 Than Any Other Country

Radio Free Asia (RFA) recently reported on a study by The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international human rights organization, saying that 44 journalists were imprisoned in China in 2023, more than in any other country. Out of the 44 imprisoned Chinese journalists, 19 were of the Uyghur ethnic group. According to the CPJ report, “censorship makes the exact number of journalists jailed there notoriously difficult to determine, but Beijing’s media crackdown has widened in recent years.” When the CPJ report was released, Jimmy Lai, one of the representatives of press freedom in Hong Kong and the former founder of Apple Daily, was on trial in Hong Kong facing accusations of anti-state crimes. He had been subject to detention in prison for more than 1,140 consecutive days.

The report pointed out that the Chinese government has a tendency to charge journalists with “working against the state.” In 2023, three-fifths of new cases brought against journalists in China involved charges of espionage and incitement, separatism, or subversion of state power. This trend of bringing anti-state charges against journalists reflects the Chinese government’s attitude towards freedom of speech — it wantonly uses the party-state judicial apparatus to directly punish those who use speech in a manner that it deems unfavorable. Criminal charges are often brought on the basis of speech or reporting alone.

It is worth noting that China’s amended Counterespionage Law, which took effect on July 1, 2023, raised concern among members of the press at the time. Since Chinese law has always been vague about what constitutes threats “related to national security and interests,” it is difficult for Chinese and foreign journalists operating in China to gain clarity and feel secure in the reporting work they do.


RFA, January 19, 2024

CPJ, January 18, 2024

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