117 out of 387 worldwide according to Reporters Without Borders. Top five positions occupied by Asian countries and the Middle East. Rise in arrests after the outbreak of the pandemic. Most of the imprisoned Chinese reporters are of Uyghur origin. Independent Chinese and foreign reporters and those active in Hong Kong are targeted.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Chinese government holds the global record in jailing journalists this year. Data published yesterday by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reveals that out of 387 reporters detained around the world, 117 are in China; followed by Saudi Arabia (34), Egypt (30), Vietnam (28) and Syria (27). Researchers say that the worsening of the situation in these and other countries is due to the adoption of emergency laws against the pandemic that have further restricted press freedom.
Another study, released today by the New York Committee for the Protection of Journalists, reveals that most of the arrests in China took place in Xinjiang; it concerns journalists of Uyghur origin, a Turkish-speaking population of Muslim faith systematically persecuted by the authorities.
Last week, Chinese police arrested Bloomberg journalist Haze Fan: she is accused of carrying out "criminal activities" that threaten the country's national security. Independent journalist Zhang Zhan has been detained in a Shanghai prison since May. She risks five years in prison for reporting on the Covid-19 emergency in Wuhan (Hubei), the epicentre of the pandemic. Last week, her lawyer revealed that the torture she suffered in prison damaged the blogger's health.
Three other reporters disappeared in the Hubei capital in February. Li Zehua, who had posted about the city's crematoria open 19 hours a day, reappeared on April 22 after a spell under arrest. Chen Qiushi is under the "supervision" of the authorities. On the other hand, there is still no news of Fang Bin.
The tensions between Beijing and Washington has also created problems for foreign journalists. The Chinese expelled the correspondents of three major US newspapers in March: a response to the Trump administration's decision to consider some Chinese media operating in the United States as "foreign missions", like diplomatic ones.
Cheng Lei, an Australian presenter who works for the Chinese state TV CGTN, was stopped on August 14. Since then the woman has been "under surveillance in a designated residence". In September, two Australian journalists - Bill Birtles of the ABC and Michael Smith of the Australian Financial Review - fled China. Both had found refuge in their country's diplomatic offices after Chinese police raided their homes on September 3. Earlier in the day, a Los Angeles Times reporter was arrested and then deported from Inner Mongolia as she followed the protests that were shaking China's northern region.
Then there are the effects of the new security law in Hong Kong. Apple Daily owner - and democratic activist - Jimmy Lai could end up with life imprisonment under the new security law set up by Beijing. In November, Wan Yiu-sing (better known as "Giggs"), an online radio reporter, was arrested. Previously, the police had arrested an RTHK producer Bao Choy who investigated the Yuen Long "riots", which took place last year in the midst of demonstrations against the extradition law.