Wed, Jan 31, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Conditions worsen in China: foreign reporters

AFP, BEIJING

Working conditions last year for foreign correspondents in China deteriorated, with journalists reporting being beaten, detained and harassed, a survey published yesterday showed.

Nearly half of more than 100 correspondents last year were subjected to some form of interference while attempting to gather information, according to the report by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China.

Twenty-three percent said they were physically obstructed from accessing a location and 8 percent said they were manhandled or beaten.

BBC reporter Matthew Goddard told the club that unknown people tried to smash his camera equipment after he refused to hand over footage and “physically punched” him.

The club said the results “provide strong evidence to suggest that, from an already very low baseline, reporting conditions are getting worse.”

Reporting grew more difficult in many areas, but particularly in Xinjiang, the homeland of the Uighurs — a mostly Muslim ethnic minority experiencing Chinese cultural and religious repression.

Seventy-three percent of respondents who traveled to Xinjiang were told by officials that reporting was prohibited or restricted, compared with 42 percent in 2016.

“I was detained in Xinjiang numerous times, in pretty much every city, on the train. I was interrogated for 11 hours and was not permitted to sleep for two nights,” the report cited a journalist from a US news organization as saying.

Chinese authorities say the country has a basic policy of “opening up to the outside world,” including protecting the rights of foreign journalists, who may interview anyone who gives prior consent.

However, correspondents reported growing pressure by Chinese officials on foreign news outlets.

The survey found that authorities stepped up the threat of not renewing journalist visas in an effort to convince media outlets to write more favorable positive reports.

Five international news organizations experienced visa difficulties that appeared related to their work. The problems included lengthy delays in visa approval, credentials issued with unusually short validity and outright rejection of accreditations.

Chinese diplomats overseas have also appeared to become more assertive in applying pressure on media headquarters, with 22 percent of respondents reporting pressure on their head offices, up from 19 percent in the previous survey.

Such activity has included critical public statements made by Chinese ambassadors and embassies, which have included accusations that reports are “fabricated news” and requests to delete articles.

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