The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the recent actions by Chinese authorities against foreign journalists, threatening to revoke visas following an interview.
On April 19, Voice of America (VOA), a US government-funded, independent media outlet, livestreamed an interview with Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire, currently in exile in the US. Guo has made a series of allegations of corruption against relatives of high-ranking Communist Party officials. In the interview, which VOA streamed, Guo made new alloegations about businesses secretly controlled by Chinese leaders, including one allegation involving Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as the nephew of Wang Qishan, a current member of the Politburo Standing Committee.
The interview was into its second hour, when VOA abruptedly ended, citing issues of miscommunication. Speculation spread online, particularly on social media and in the media industry. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that on April 19, Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for Guo Wengui and that was the reason the interview finished.
VOA spokesperson, Bridget Serchak, told the media in an email: “The stream was allowed to continue beyond its first hour. When this was noticed, the feed was terminated.” According to a New York Times report, VOA executive, Amanda Bennett, proceeded with the interview, with the understanding that the live portion only lasted one hour. The rest of the interview would be recorded. The New York Times also reported that Chinese government officials tried to suppress VOA to cancel the interview. In the report, it said that the Foreign Ministry summoned VOA’s Beijing-based correspondent, Bill Ide, and demanded that broadcasting on the interview not go ahead as it interfered with internal affairs and threatened that the broadcast may affect the renewal of journalists’ visas.
“The whole thing is stupid anyway. We are in a low morale,” a reporter of VOA said, “such an interview related with the legal issues, the editor or manager should consult the legal department in advanced.”
The IFJ Asia-Pacific office said: “The actions by the Chinese government to attempt to control and suppress the media highlight the volatile environment that the media continues to operate in in China. Foreign media are no longer exempt from controlling hand of the Chinese government. Threats to the media, and in this case, against whistle-blowers, only work to weaken press freedom.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries
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