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Authorities release National Human Rights Action Plan

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Madeline Earp/CPJ Senior Asia Research Associate

China's state news agency Xinhua published the full text of the state council's National Human Rights Action Plan 2012-15 on Monday. There is no section dedicated to press freedom. But the most striking omissions can be found in the text itself.

Section 7 of the Civil and Political Rights segment of the plan promises to "strengthen institutional guarantees for the legitimate rights and interests of news agencies and journalists." The section is titled "Right to be heard" not "Freedom of expression."

Do rights, in this context, actually mean freedom? Up to a point. In 2010 CPJ published a special report on the hot topic of "press rights" in China. In that report, academic and media analyst Zhan Jiang explained that Chinese journalists avoid terms like "press freedom," with its connotations of Western-style democracy. "What do we say instead? Media rights. It means the same."

So far, so good. But what Zhan described is the way domestic journalists adopt sanctioned rhetoric to advocate for themselves and their colleagues without reprisal from the authorities. That's a creative and a laudable endeavor, but it's not the same as freedom. And the rhetoric has significant limits, as we found in the 2010 report:

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