Correspondents in China lament “unprecedented hurdles”


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The Winter Olympics in Beijing will take place from February 4th to 20th, 2022. © Mark Schiefelbein/AP/dpa

Visa refusal, surveillance and intimidation: Foreign journalists in China are massively obstructed. Fewer and fewer can still report from the country. Criticism is also hailing for the Olympics.

Beijing – Foreign correspondents in China complain about “unprecedented hurdles” in their reporting from the country.

In the annual survey by the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCCC), 99 percent said they felt the working conditions did not meet international standards, a statement showed on Monday. “The FCCC is concerned about the breakneck pace at which media freedom is declining in China.”

With the Beijing Winter Olympics starting on Friday, 60 percent of the 127 survey respondents criticized the organizers for insufficient information about events beforehand. 32 percent complained that they had been excluded from events that were open to other media.

Intimidation, Surveillance, Harassment

Denial of visas, surveillance, intimidation and harassment have been reported in day-to-day work. With reference to the fight against the corona virus, authorities justified delays in issuing visas, banned reporter trips or rejected interview requests. Almost half of those surveyed (46 percent) reported that their offices were understaffed because they were unable to bring journalists into the country.

“As a result, reporting from China suffers,” the FCCC noted. China correspondents who are not allowed to report directly from the country have settled in Taipei, Singapore, Sydney, Seoul or London. “Journalistic coverage of China is increasingly becoming an exercise in remote reporting.”

Meanwhile, correspondents in the country suffered from significant restrictions in their work. 62 percent said they had been prevented from reporting at least once by the police or other officials. 88 percent who visited the Xinjiang region in northwest China reported being persecuted. China has come under international criticism for its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang.

More than a quarter of journalists knew that sources had been harassed, arrested or interrogated, the report said. 92 percent reported refusals by interviewees, who pointed out that they needed permission from their employers or higher authorities to speak to foreign media.

Arrests without specific allegations

Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who worked for state broadcaster CCTV, and Haze Fan, a Chinese employee of the finance agency Bloomberg, have been detained for more than a year. Concrete allegations were not mentioned – apart from vague indications that it was about state security. “The risk environment is changing in an unusual way right now,” said David Rennie of The Economist magazine.

Chinese authorities also seemed to encourage civil suits or legal action against foreign correspondents. State-supported campaigns with online attacks made the work difficult. It encourages feelings among the Chinese public that foreign media are hostile, the FCCC noted. A handful of correspondents who had been attacked in this way and their families had left the country as a precaution because of the harassment. dpa


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