By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 3 May 2019
On World Press Freedom Day, Tibetan journalists in exile voiced their concern for the suppression of freedoms and the lack of any press freedom in Chinese-occupied Tibet.
During a panel discussion observing the day, Pema Tso, the Editor of Tibet Times, said “There’s nothing for Tibetans to celebrate about World Press Freedom Day. Tibetans in Tibet don’t even have the right to say that they don’t have press freedom in Tibet.”
Tso, who was born and brought up in Tibet and later escaped to India, described how her age-mates were required to watch Chinese propaganda when they were young. “There’s no such thing as freedom of press. It’s all government-controlled,” she said.
“It is a day to raise our voice against the tyranny for rights and freedom in Tibet.”
Tenzin Paldon, the Editor of Voice of Tibet Radio, said that people in Tibet have no freedom to listen to Tibetan news broadcasts giving information from exile.
She also said, “It is difficult to get information from Tibet, and even if we get it, first there’s difficulty in authenticating the information, and second there’s a need to check if the piece of information should be broadcast at all, as it may have serious ramifications on the life of people in Tibet.”
Tenzin Dalha, Research fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute, spoke on “Internet Censorship and Growing Surveillance in Tibet.” He said that the Chinese government perceives the Internet as a ‘necessary evil’ — it helped China uplift itself from a poor backward economy to the second-largest economy in the world, but also makes it difficult for the government to control the flow of information both within the country and across its borders.
He pointed out that Chinese authorities, equipped with law and technological surveillance, try to have tight control over what citizens can see and say online, and filter a significant portion of content pertaining to its own human rights record.
World Press Freedom Day
The Panel discussion to observe World Press Freedom Day was organised by the Association of Tibetan Journalists (ATJ) and Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.
There are about 30 Tibetan journalists, most of whom are members of the ATJ representing TV, radio, newspapers, and online newspapers in McLeod Ganj, the headquarters of the Tibetan Diaspora.
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993 and is marked on 3 May each year. On this day the press fraternity reflects on the role it plays in disseminating information to the public, and the challenges the journalists face.
Journalists and human rights organisations observe the day by expressing their concerns over the growing threats to freedom of expression from tyrant governments and to the lives of journalists themselves, many of whom have lost their lives in the line of duty. The International Federation of Journalists puts the number of journalists killed last year during the course of their work as at least 95.
At least 250 journalists were imprisoned across the world in 2018 simply for doing their job, according to CPJ’s 2018 prison census. According to Reporters without Borders, of 180 nations assessed in 2018, Turkmenistan had the least press freedom, followed by North Korea, Eritrea, China, and Vietnam.