Beijing: China supervises the “opinion field”, a state-run daily admitted on Thursday, adding that the system does not include “arresting disobedient journalists”.
An editorial “Arrest distant worry for Chinese reporters” in the Global Times said that the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued its annual report Tuesday, listing China as the leading jailer of journalists.
According to the report, as of December 1, globally 199 journalists are behind bars, of which 49 are Chinese. This is the highest number of jailed journalists in a single country since the statistics were first released in 1990.
“It seems that there is only one goal of this illogical list – highlighting China’s ‘political autocratic regime’,” said the daily and added: “We don’t know if there are indeed 49 journalists in jail in China.”
“If this leaves a strong impression that journalists are arrested without proper reasons, and that this worries the whole media industry, then that is obviously an exaggeration.
“If a journalist is arrested, it would normally become sensational news in China. The excuse for the arrest will be readily questioned in the opinion field from the get go, and a high price will be paid if a journalist is wrongly detained,” the daily said.
The editorial admitted: “Supervising the opinion field is a painstaking exploration and practice in China. But the system does not include arresting disobedient journalists.”
It said that a reporter might be criticized, need to write a self-criticism, or receive an administrative punishment. “Yet few in the field would worry about being detained if they make a blunder.”
The editorial went on to say that there are indeed a few individuals caught up in lawsuits, but it is perhaps normal in the big society of China.
“The definition of a journalist is different in each country. The West tends to use the term ‘citizen journalist’ to describe those who occasionally post online or provide stories to the media in developing countries when needed. Statistics from these Western advocates for journalists are therefore not reliable.
“In the meantime, no matter in which society, journalists also need to abide by the law.”