WASHINGTON – Threats to journalists and netizens, and censorship issues continued to hurt the media environments of Radio Free Asia’s target countries, according to Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 Press Freedom Index. Radio Free Asia (RFA) President Libby Liu said the report continues to paint “a grim picture of the future of press freedom in Asia,” with seven of RFA’s nine language services now operating in the bottom 10 percent of media environments in the world. Meanwhile, the two RFA countries not in the bottom 10 percent, Myanmar and Cambodia, still continue to struggle with government pressure on journalists and news outlets to self-censor.
“In all of RFA’s countries, press freedom continues to be under threat and under attack,” Liu said. “The seriousness of the situation is evidenced in areas once considered the few bright spots of our broadcast regions.
“In Hong Kong, for example, authorities used the Umbrella Movement demonstrations as an excuse to escalate their efforts to rein in media freedoms, including attacks on and firings of editors and reporters critical of the city’s and mainland China’s leadership.
“Our journalists on the ground in Myanmar and Cambodia continue to experience and witness both countries struggling with free press issues, including the use of civil and criminal courts as a means to intimidate journalists with the threat of prosecution.
“With this latest report, Reporters Without Borders continues to paint a grim picture of the future of press freedom in Asia, especially with countries under authoritarian rule – and it reinforces the need for our work there now more than ever.”
The survey ranked North Korea second to last at 179 of the 180 countries researched, with China at 176, Vietnam at 175, and Laos at 171. Cambodia was ranked at 139 and Myanmar at 144. Hong Kong, once considered a bastion of free expression in China, saw steep declines. The report cited police misconduct aimed at reporters and photojournalists during the Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests. The report cited China and Vietnam as among its worst press freedom offenders, with both countries arresting bloggers and journalists. In China, these included famous journalist Gao Yu, who was forced to make a televised “confession,” cyber-dissident Xu Zhiyong, and leading Uyghur blogger and economics professor Ilham Tohti, who have joined “the hundred or so other news and information providers already in detention.” In Vietnam, independent journalist Truong Minh Duc was in intensive care for weeks after being attacked by eight policemen on Nov. 2, 2014.
RFA provides accurate, fact-based news and information via short- and medium-wave radio, satellite transmissions and television, online through the websites of its nine language services, and social media such as Facebook and YouTube, among other widely used platforms in its countries of operation. RFA’s language services are Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, and Uyghur, in China; Myanmar; Khmer (Cambodian); Vietnamese; Lao; and Korean.