China’s move to silence its critics in order to portray a more positive image is now reaching far beyond its borders, according to a new report.
Cedric Alviani, East Asia Bureau Director for the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, detailed the way in which China is suppressing information ahead of the release of a 52-page report next Monday.
“Journalism as we know it does not have its place in China and actually currently the Chinese authorities are also trying, little by little, to suppress free journalism outside China when of course it relates to Chinese news,” Alviani told the March 20 club lunch.
He added: “If we had met 10 years ago the purpose would have been as an NGO ‘how can we improve the situation in China?’. Now the question is ‘how can we protect democracies from the activities of China in this domain?’”
The Chinese authorities are spending in the region of US$10 billion per year on manipulating and modifying the perception of China in the modern media, he said. An example is China Watch, a pro-Beijing ‘news’ supplement being carried by international media including The New York Times and The Washington Post. China was also buying major stakes in media companies around the world, Alviani said.
His sentiments were echoed by journalists Josh Chin and Yuan Yang, also board members of the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, who pointed to falling revenues of news organisations in the West as a reason for them accepting Chinese investment.
“Even though the New York Times and Washington Post and so on have increased their subscriber base over the last few years, the advertising revenues coming into the media industry as a whole has plummeted because, as we all know, the rise of ad tech giants like Google and Facebook,” Yang said.
The panel also talked about the increased harassment – both in person and online – of reporters in China, specifically those covering the persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China recently published its own report on deteriorating reporting conditions for journalists.
Watch the full talk here