For the 3rd straight year, not a single foreign correspondent said reporting conditions improved in China. Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said in its annual report on Monday, working conditions for journalists continued to decline in China in 2020 with the government harassing, intimidating and expelling reporters from the country using all arms of state power.
Chinese embassy had sharply criticised the Kathmandu Post on 18th February 2020 for publishing a syndicated column which argued that China’s authoritarian system of government had worsened the deadly corona virus outbreak.
According to the Post, the Chinese embassy did not just express its discontent with the published article, but it went so far as to “disparage the Post’s editor-in-chief and employ threatening language”. The paper added:
China’s worsening media environment. UK urge China to ensure journalists are free to work without harassment, intimidation & the threat of detention or expulsion.National Security Law is being used to suppress democratic voices in #HongKong.@nadams
Tweet of Sen. Marsha Blackburn · Dec 4, 2020. Chen, you’re a puppet in Xi Jinping’s delusional China dream for global domination. From Tiananmen Square to Uyghur genocide, Communist China is an expert at slaughtering populations. twitter.com/chenweihua/sta
The club interviewed as many as 150 of 220 correspondent members representing news organisations from 30 countries and regions for the purpose of the report. Titled “Trace, Trace, Expel: Reporting on China Amid a Pandemic”, the report said that for the third consecutive year, not a single correspondent said working conditions had improved.
The report said, Beijing expelled the largest number of foreign journalists since the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 – at least 18 foreign journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post were expelled in 2020.
It further said, “All arms of state power – including surveillance systems introduced to curb coronavirus – were used to harass and intimidate journalists, their Chinese colleagues, and those whom the foreign press sought to interview”.
“Visas became a tit-for-tat fight, as the US government capped visa numbers for Chinese journalists in America, leading to the departure of scores of Chinese, many of whom worked for state media.”
China, the report added, used the pandemic to control journalists. New surveillance systems and strict controls on movement, implemented for public health reasons, were used to limit foreign journalists, it said.
“On many occasions, correspondents were forced to abandon reporting trips after being told to leave or be quarantined on the spot,” the report added.
Visa restrictions were also used to put pressure on reporting with at least 13 correspondents given press credentials valid for six months or less. Foreign reporters are usually granted one-year visas to be renewed annually.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed it as “not based on facts”. He said, China always welcomes media and journalists from all countries to cover news in accordance with the laws and regulations. However, we oppose ideological bias against China and fake news in the name of press freedom, he said.
The Chinese government doesn’t recognize the FCCC and routinely dismisses it’s annual reports on working conditions of journalists in the country.
The report said more eyes than ever are trained on China, a rising power whose influence can be felt in every corner of the globe. “China is also slated to host the Winter Olympics in early 2022 – only a year from now.
At such a moment, the FCCC urges Chinese authorities to allow foreign journalists to do their jobs – reporting on this extraordinary country.”