Story at a glance

  • Reporters Without Borders released their annual Press Freedom Index.
  • China ranked 177th out of 180 countries on the index.
  • The report states China’s oppression of journalists might have been a contributing factor to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s oppression of journalists might have been a contributing factor to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Reporters Without Borders.

The group’s annual index of press freedom in 180 countries found that China’s persecution of reporters impeded the whistleblowing and dissemination of information on the coronavirus before it went on to ravage the world. 


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China used state-backed media to restrict the information being released about the coronavirus. Li Wenliang, a Chinese doctor, attempted to raise the alarm about the virus but was brought in by China’s Public Security Bureau and told to cease and desist. Li later died of the coronavirus. 

Similarly, Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist, was jailed for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" while conducting early reporting on the virus.

“We’ve argued and still argue that if the press had been freer in China then it’s possible a global pandemic could have been averted,” said Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns for the group.

China currently ranks 177th out of 180 countries on the organization’s Press Freedom Index, which cites the country’s history of taking “Internet censorship, surveillance and propaganda to unprecedented levels.”

“It’s not just a danger for the people of China — they have more journalists in jail than anyone else — but it’s trickling throughout our international information systems,” Vincent said. “They’re trying to influence how we get and perceive information everywhere.”

The United States didn’t make the top 10 best countries for press freedom, coming in at 44th.

10 best countries for press freedom

  1. Norway
  2. Finland
  3. Sweden
  4. Denmark
  5. Costa Rica
  6. The Netherlands
  7. Jamaica
  8. New Zealand
  9. Portugal
  10. Switzerland 

10 worst countries for press freedom

  1. Eritrea
  2. North Korea
  3. Turkmenistan
  4. China
  5. Djibouti
  6. Vietnam
  7. Iran
  8. Syria
  9. Laos
  10. Cuba

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Published on Apr 20, 2021