Challenged in China

The shifting dynamics of censorship and control

As Xi Jinping takes office as president of China, the citizenry he governs is more sophisticated and interconnected than any before, largely because of the Internet. A complex digital censorship system–combined with a more traditional approach to media control, such as jailing journalists–keeps free expression in check. Repressive regimes worldwide look to China as a model, but Beijing’s system of control is increasingly endangered. A special report by the Committee to Protect Journalists

Issued March 2013


Preface by David Schlesinger

1. Beyond the Reach of Censors

The Internet gives Chinese citizens a place to air grievances and journalists a platform to publish news not welcome in traditional media. Weibo is a powerful weapon against the Great Firewall, but an information void persists. By Sophie Beach

Interactive Graphic: Internet usage in China

2. Legal Threats Persist

Chinese journalists who ask tough questions risk censorship, demotion, prosecution, imprisonment, and extrajudicial punishment. Vague legal language means one never knows when one might cross a forbidden line. By Madeline Earp

Interactive Graphic: Journalists Imprisoned in China

3. Made in China

Chinese state media are expanding globally, while Beijing pushes in international forums for more local control of the Internet. The risks include the spread of self-censorship and Internet filtering outside China’s borders. By Danny O’Brien and Madeline Earp

Interactive Graphic: Bo Xilai Scandal: How news breaks in China

4. CPJ’s Recommendations

CPJ’s recommendations to Chinese authorities and the international community.

Video. Censored: A Chinese Journalists Inside View

Liu Jianfeng worked in China’s state-controlled media for nearly two decades before pressure and frustration prompted him to quit. But he continues to report on public issues such as land grabs, and hopes to find a new model for investigative journalism. By Jonah Kessel

In other languages: 中文 (pdf)

In print: Download the pdf

PHOTO: Police separate a supporter of Southern Weekly magazine from leftists confronting him outside the office of the newspaper in Guangzhou on January 9, 2013. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)