While China’s booming economy and rising standard of living will be showcased at the upcoming Summer Olympics, there is a dark face of the Asian giant that cannot be ignored. It is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with 29 news media members in prison for practicing freedom of speech and the press.
China won its bid for the games with a pledge to the International Olympic Committee to allow complete freedom of reporters to cover the sporting events. Unfortunately, it has not extended that right to its own citizens, who live in an environment of severely restricted information.
The Committee to Protect Journalists made the situation in China the focus at its International Press Freedom Awards held in New York City. Advocacy cards calling for the release of the imprisoned journalists and a freer press were distributed and signed by more than 500 attendees, including Dan Rather, Scott Pelley and two international journalists honored for their work, Russian newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov and Pakistan television journalist Mazhar Abbas. The cards have been presented to Chinese consular officials in New York.
The Committee to Protect Journalists also recently came out with its annual report, “Attacks on the Press.” In its section on China, the report states that in 2007 — a year in which thousands of websites were shut down and three Internet journalists were imprisoned — “the people’s right to be informed took a backseat to official efforts to control public opinion.”
In August of last year the CPJ released a 79-page report, “Falling Short,” outlining China’s continued abuse of domestic journalists in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.