More than 100 journalists and bloggers are currently in jails in China, Reporters Without Border (RSF) has said. Chinese President Xi Jinping has succeeded in perpetuating a governance model based on strict control of news and information and deep citizens surveillance, RSF added.
The pandemic has also led to more controls over news media and stricter vigil over what people communicate through online channels, the organization added. "Worse still, Beijing has used the crisis to further tighten its control of the media," it said.
More Control During Pandemic
Meanwhile, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the authoritarian governments stepped up arrests of journalists who covered the pandemic.
"China, which arrested several journalists for their coverage of the pandemic, was the world's worst jailer for the second year in a row," the report said. It observed that authoritarian governments across the world used the pandemic to curb media freedoms.
"Amid the pandemic, governments delayed trials, restricted visitors, and disregarded the increased health risk in prison; at least two journalists died after contracting the disease in custody," the report said, according to the Radio Free Asia.
China at Bottom of Global Press Freedom Index
The report added that China languishes near the bottom of the Global Press Freedom Index. The ruling Chinese Communist Party CCP is responsible for imprisoning the most number of journalists in 2020.
RSF also observed that some of the detained journalists in China are held in life-threatening conditions. "The crackdown on foreign correspondents has been tightened with 16 being expelled since the start of the year," it said.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, where a smoldering pro-Democracy movement is going on, the Journalists' Association (HKJA) has said the pandemic was used by Beijing as a pretext for the communist party control and suppression of public speech.
"On the surface it seems to be related to the pandemic, because the authorities will be particularly nervous [about that]," the association's chairman said.
More journalists have been targeted in 2020 than ever before, he said, adding that a "minefield" of information controls is put in place.