A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has exposed a concerning trend in China, revealing that almost half of the journalists incarcerated in 2023 were identified as Uyghurs, as reported by Voice of America.
The imprisonment of 44 journalists, with approximately half being Uyghurs, highlights Beijing's poor press freedom record and human rights abuses against this majority-Muslim ethnic group, according to a report.
As of December 1, the data provides a global overview of journalists incarcerated for their work, indicating significant concerns about press freedom in China, particularly in its treatment of the Uyghur community. Among the 19 Uyghurs held, critics of the Chinese government often face charges of separatism and terrorism, as reported by Voice of America.
The report underscores the case of Ilham Tohti, an academic and blogger who recently completed a decade in custody. Arrested in January 2014, Tohti is serving a life sentence on charges of alleged separatism.
His situation highlights the harsh repercussions faced by individuals critical of the Chinese government, with the court citing his interviews with foreign news outlets and his role as the founder of the Xinjiang news site Uighurbiz, which authorities shut down in 2014.
Zubayra Shamseden from the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) in Washington stated, "For the Chinese government, Uyghur journalists are a dangerous group of people. They don’t want them to say anything. They try to crack down on Uyghur journalists, particularly because they want to shut the Uyghur voice off."
Governments, including the US, accuse China of committing genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The UN Human Rights Office expressed concerns about crimes against humanity. The targeting of Uyghur reporters aligns with the broader persecution of intellectuals and cultural figures, viewed as a component of genocide to eradicate Uyghur cultural identity.
The CPJ report highlights a global trend of silencing critical voices through journalist arrests, with 320 journalists held worldwide. CPJ Chief Executive Jodie Ginsberg emphasized the perceived threat to those in power when journalists hold them accountable. In China, three of the five new cases in CPJ’s 2023 database involved reporters accused of espionage, inciting separatism, or subverting state power.
The persecution of Uyghur journalists extends beyond China’s borders, with individuals experiencing transnational repression. Beijing applies pressure to prevent Uyghurs from speaking out. The Chinese Embassy in Washington rejected claims of human rights abuses, asserting that Beijing respects media freedom.
“The Chinese government protects press freedom by the law, enabling media and citizens to supervise public opinion,” the spokesperson stated. The Chinese government accused some in the US of spreading disinformation by smearing and attacking China.
Image source: ANI