The Great Firewall of China

The Great Firewall of China

Did you know that the Great Firewall of China exists? As the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Shanghai is taking place from April 12th to 14th, Reporters Without Borders urges the Chinese authorities to accept freedom of expression and stop censorship.

China is actually ranked 173rd out of 179 countries in the world ranking of press freedom. The control of information is done via media censorship, retaliation against those involved in information and a resurgence of blocking websites and Internet surveillance.

To date, 30 journalists and 69 netizens are imprisoned. The Chinese authorities have yet hardened repression for a little over a year : arbitrary detentions, unfair trials and harsh sentences have increased and cybercensorship has been particularly severe. They built strong firewalls.

Harassment and pressure on dissidents and their families are quite common. The Bureau of Advertising (aka the former Propaganda Bureau) gives every day very specific guidelines for Chinese media, including news sites on topics or events they are not allowed to talk by referring to a news agency Xinhua, and what they are allowed and even encouraged to cover. Once a case mobilizes the media attention, whether on the Internet or in other media, officers remind them about the importance of political and social stability in China.

The New Year editorial of the weekly Southern Weekend reformist magazine which spoke of hopes for change in 2013, was censured by the Propaganda Department, which has caused an unprecedented mobilization of journalists and netizens for freedom of information.

Authorities practice disinformation and censorship to control their image, also on an international level. This can have serious consequences: the Chinese government has waited three weeks after the death of people who contracted the H7N9 virus, in Shanghai, to discuss the risk of epidemics. A dozen cyber users who have talked about infection cases on the Internet have been arrested for distributing so-called ‘false information’. If that is not a firewall ?

The Great Firewall is the nickname given to the system of censorship and surveillance of the Net in China which is among the most sophisticated ones in the world.

On the Internet, keywords such as “human rights” or “Tiananmen” are blocked. Chinese authorities even enlist private businesses such as social networks or Sina Tencent to monitor about users and delete references about touchy topics

The government also seeks to control the coverage by foreign media. After censorship in June 2012 of Bloomberg site, following its investigation of the family fortune Chinese President, The New York Times was also censored and threatened with prosecution after publishing an article on the fortune accumulated by the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. The BBC has also confirmed that “intermittent power outages (of programs) have been identified (…) and intensified in February”. In March, two British journalists from Skynews have been arrested. And China continues to refuse more visas and accreditations.

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