Score: 22.97 // Status: Very difficult

179 – China

The People's Republic of China (PRC) is the world's largest prison for journalists, and its regime coordinates a campaign to repress journalism and the right to information around the world.

Major Chinese media groups, which include Xinhua news agency, China Central Television (CCTV), China National Radio (CNR), China Daily, People's Daily and Global Times, they belong to the State and are directly controlled by the authorities. Every day, the Communist Party's Propaganda Department sends the media a detailed list of topics to be highlighted and a list of topics that are prohibited from covering under penalty of sanctions. The state-owned groups China Global Television Network (CGTN) and China Radio International (RCI) broadcast the regime's propaganda throughout the world.

In the eyes of the regime, the press must act as the party's spokesperson and spread its propaganda. Independent journalists and bloggers who dare to investigate a subject considered sensitive are placed under surveillance, persecuted, detained and, in some cases, tortured. To obtain and renew their press credentials, journalists must use the “Study Xi, Strengthen the Country” propaganda application, which may collect their personal data.

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China guarantees “freedom of expression (and) of the press”, but the regime routinely violates the right to information, with complete impunity. To silence journalists, it accuses them of “espionage” and “subversion” or “inciting fights and causing riots”, three crimes whose definition is so vague that they can be invoked in any context. The law allows freelance journalists to be held for up to six months under “designated residential surveillance” (RSDL), a euphemism for solitary confinement in the Chinese regime’s “black prisons,” where they are deprived of any legal representation and can be subjected to torture.

The sector is very profitable, but it is almost entirely controlled by the government and the Chinese Communist Party, which plans to pass a law banning any private investment in the press. If passed, this law could consolidate existing restrictions and strengthen the regime's control over the press, silencing the last independent voices.

President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2012, has restored a media culture worthy of the Maoist era, in which free access to information is a crime and the provision of information an even more serious crime. Chinese public and private media outlets are under increasingly strict control, at the same time that the government multiplies obstacles to the work of foreign correspondents.

The Chinese regime uses surveillance, coercion, intimidation and harassment to prevent independent journalists from reporting on topics it considers “sensitive.”