All that glitters is not gold. What we usually perceive might not always be as it really is. Everything is marked by certain limitations, consisting of some areas in need of improvement. China, as one might think of, as an ancient invention house, an exports giant or as a nation enjoying the world’s largest standing army. Numerous notions lie attached with the name of the most populous land on this planet. Amidst all pomp and show, the industry which acts as a herald, strives to earn some freedom of expression. Freedom of the press is under attack in many countries while China is among the worst offenders. Let us embark on a journey which explores how free the media of the Dragon is or how shackled it is.
Since the inception of the People’s Republic of China, almost all media in China were state-operated. With the onset of the economic reforms, independent media emerged which is also regulated on subjects considered taboo by the authorities. The agenda behind such censorship are diverse; some are declared entirely by the government itself, a pertinent media disseminator; and some are conjectured by internal and external critics in the country. It is largely observed as being used for political protectionism, the political pressure is inflicted by the Communist Party of China which constantly endeavours to secrete its drawbacks, consequently curbing the inflammation of anti-government sentiments. The denizens are even restricted to access any foreign government websites so as to prevent comparison of any kind. If a site is inaccessible, then it is added to Google China’s blacklist. The authorities not only block website content but also monitor the Internet access of individuals. The size of the Internet is reported at more than 30,000. A Harvard study states, at least 18,000 websites are blocked from within mainland China, including the ones of international fame like Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.
The escalating woes of the journalists are illuminated as they confront torment; reprisals in the workplace and prison terms for violating the guidelines laid down by the government and are therefore pressured into “self-censorship.” They also face violent retribution from individuals or groups implicated in their reports. Publicizing the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department (CPD) guidelines also invites castigation. The issue of the physical attacks is getting serious, and the severity of the problem lies in its universality. Foreign correspondents need to get permission before making reporting trips within the country and are strictly proscribed from instigating sensitive issues. The emerging superpower has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world. In response to the upsurge, some insurance companies, now list journalism as the third most dangerous career in the country.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB), a French NGO, in its annual ranking “The Press Freedom Index”, ranked China at 174 out of 178 nations in the year 2011-12; which was 138 in the year 2002, categorizing it to be under the mark of “very serious situation”. This indicates the sorry state of the country, getting worse with time while being better than merely five others in terms of the freedom of the press. RWB commented that China seems to have lost contact with reality as it has been sucked into an insane spiral of terror. It also called the Chinese government as having “the regrettable distinction of leading the world in repression of the Internet”
Chinese press has become increasingly commercialised with the advent of the cut-throat competition, variegated content, and an increment in the investigative journalism. The government has conferred more freedom to the areas like sports, finance and an increasingly lucrative entertainment industry. In spite of heavy government monitoring, however, editors and journalists find ways to get news past the censors. Humour and political satire are used as tools to criticize the government at blogosphere. The industry hopefully believes that times are changing fast and the scenario is constantly improving, as a journalism professor in Beijing remarks that an increase in the frequency, power, and range of the media’s activity in society is a mark of progress of the development of the media.