China's Communist authorities are once again blocking the websites of foreign news media including the Chinese-language versions of the BBC and Voice of America, after a brief period of relative openness surrounding the Olympics in August. That openness-in which some sensitive websites were unblocked- occurred only after foreign journalists complained that China's government was reneging on a promise that there would be "no restrictions on journalists in covering the Olympic Games."
"China's Communist leaders are again blocking websites critical of the regime as they brace for their next public relations challenge-namely growing dissent over worsening economic conditions and the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director.
China also appears to have reinstated its ban this month on sites it deems sensitive including Reporters Without Borders and some Taiwan and Hong Kong-based sites including Asiaweek and Ming Pao. China's Foreign Ministry contends that such sites "violate Chinese law" by discussing taboo issues such as Taiwan's status, high-level government corruption, forbidden groups like Falun Gong and human rights violations in Tibet and Xinjiang. However, China defines such violations broadly and regularly imposes censorship with little explanation or recourse to the blocked websites.
China used the Olympics to add the latest technology to what was already the most sophisticated Internet surveillance and censorship apparatus in the world. Since 2005, the Communist Party has recruited and trained an army of web commentators to post pro-government remarks and block thousands of websites.
While foreign media operated with some freedom during the Olympics, Chinese media faced greater repression this year than in 2001 when their country was award the Games. An analysis of Freedom House's annual Freedom of the Press survey shows that China's press freedom score dropped four points over the last seven years, sinking lower into the Not Free category. Chinese journalists increasingly face arrest and imprisonment, a complex web of media regulations and regular propaganda directives.
China is ranked Not Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2008 version of Freedom of the Press.
For more information on China, visit:
Freedom in the World 2008: China
Freedom of the Press 2008: China
Mass Media Control in Contemporary China
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in China since 1972.
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