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Report: Authoritarian Regimes, Including China, Increase Use of ‘Transnational Repression’ to Silence Journalists

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Exiled journalists are under constant threat of physical harm, detention, online harassment, and reprisals against their family members by authoritarian regimes such as China, Russia, and other oppressive governments. Even those living in democratic countries are not guaranteed safety and freedom, according to a new report by Washington-based nonprofit organization, Freedom House.

The report highlights the increasing incidents of “physical transnational repression” against journalists living abroad, recording 112 such incidents between 2014 and 2023. This, however, represents only a fraction of the actual phenomenon, as many incidents go unreported or are difficult to verify conclusively.

Journalists face not only direct physical threats but also digital harassment and efforts to pressure their family members still residing in their home countries. Chinese authorities, for example, have routinely threatened and detained the family members of Uyghur journalists in exile, leaving them with little to no information about their relatives’ whereabouts or condition.

The report also points out the global scale of transnational repression, identifying 26 governments worldwide engaged in such activities against reporters over the past decade. Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz has urged democratic governments, civil society organizations, and media organizations to provide better support to journalists living in exile.

Transnational Repression

The report coincided with a congressional hearing on transnational repression and authoritarians targeting dissenters abroad, where China’s campaign was singled out as one of the most sophisticated. Freedom House found that the Chinese regime accounted for about 30 percent of over 800 cases of transnational repression committed by 39 governments in 91 countries between 2014 and 2022, targeting journalists, human rights activists, and other diasporas.

According to Mr. Abramowitz, China ranks as the “number one country” in transnational repression. The CCP has denied such accusations, but evidence suggests the regime’s involvement in targeting dissidents and journalists abroad, as well as their family members.
The danger posed by such regimes goes beyond the direct victims, Mr. Cardin noted, emphasizing that the entire exile community is affected by the oppressive tactics. The message being sent is that no one, not even those granted political asylum in democratic nations, is ever truly safe.

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