Reporters Without Borders has released its annual report ranking countries on the basis of their treatment of journalists.
China ranked 177th in an index of 180 countries, a dubious and grim achievement surprising absolutely no one.
The report has called China the “biggest jailer” of journalists and among the worst countries in the world to be a journalist in.
China’s Handling Of Pandemic Coverage
China’s role as a perpetual censor was highlighted when the pandemic broke out last year.
It left no stone unturned when it came to muzzling voices speaking out about the horrors that were starting to unfold in Wuhan, the novel Coronavirus epicenter.
One can recall the tragedy of Dr. Li Wenliang who was among the first to detect the emergence of Corona patients.
He had reported in his social circles about observing patients displaying SARS-like symptoms.
Naturally, the Chinese govt caught wind of it and promptly punished him for his diligence.
He ended up succumbing to the virus himself a month later.
Traditional Chinese Medicine: Censorship
The Cyberspace Administration of China, personally overseen by President Xi Jinping, uses tactics such as shutting down websites, blocking IP address access and keywords on social media (“Tiananmen Square” being a key one), web page filters and more.
In its efforts 12,000 websites have been shuttered between Jan and Sep 2020 along with 130,000 social media accounts.
Currently, over 120 scribes are detained in life threatening conditions.
7 reporters are being held in custody for their pandemic reportage.
In somewhat good news India has not dropped in its ranks, retaining the 142nd position in the 2021 report.
It is also considered to be a dangerous country for “journalists trying to do their job properly”.
4 journalists were murdered in India in 2020.
An increasing number of cases were noted where scribes were accused of sedition which invites a life imprisonment sentence.
Freedom? Honesty? Integrity?
The report further said that journalistic freedom is under threat in the country since any reportage critical of the govt is considered “anti-state”, “anti-national”, “pro-terrorist” by ruling party supporters.
Once the label sticks, the circus of social media hate campaigns and vitriol perpetrated by an army of pro-ruling party trolls follows.
Death and rape threats are a regular feature of these tirades.
The condemnation goes beyond the virtual space. In alarming instances journalists are physically attacked by BJP mobs and police are complicit in some of the cases.
Criminal prosecutions further add to the trauma.
At least India can proudly claim to be 3 ranks better than Pakistan (at 145) and Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea which flounder below China (177) and comprise the rock bottom in the rankings.