New Report Shows Growing International Reach of Chinese Media Censorship

Chinese Communist Party media controls are increasingly constraining news outlets based outside China. This is the key finding of a report released today, authored by Freedom House research analyst Sarah Cook and published by the Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy. “The dynamics are subtle, but the reality is that the ‘China Factor’ exists in newsrooms around the world, be they internationally renowned outlets such as the New York Times and Bloomberg, a local newspaper in Nepal, or a Chinese radio station in Los Angeles,” said Cook. “The Chinese government’s efforts to influence reporting by foreign and overseas Chinese news outlets have intensified and expanded over the past five years.”

The new report – The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship: How Chinese Media Restrictions Affect News Outlets around the World – examines this phenomenon across foreign and Chinese-language media outlets based outside mainland China and that reach audiences worldwide.

The study finds that Chinese officials have directly impeded independent reporting by media based abroad, barring foreign correspondents from sites of important incidents or pressuring senior executives not to publish content deemed politically undesirable to the regime.

More prevalent—and often more effective—are methods of control that subtly induce self-censorship among media owners and outlets. Indirect pressure has also been applied via proxies—including advertisers, satellite firms, and foreign governments. These international actors have boycotted disfavored outlets, cut transmission signals, or arrested activists disseminating news critical of the Chinese Communist Party. 

The content targeted for censorship includes topics that may have global implications, such as human rights abuses, high-level corruption, and environmental pollution. Most frequently targeted are reports that touch “hot button” issues like the persecution of Tibetans, Uighurs, and Falun Gong practitioners, as well as Chinese-language commentary challenging the legitimacy of one-party rule.

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