The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed by reports that a foreign correspondent was expelled by Chinese authorities without formal explanation on Monday May 7, 2012.
Melissa Chan, a correspondent for Al-Jazeera English and board member of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), had been reporting sensitive cases of human rights violations in China since 2008.
According to a statement by the FCCC, Chinese officials had expressed anger at a documentary about the use of prison labour, which was aired on Al-Jazeera in November 2011. The report states that Chan was not involved in the production of the documentary. The statement also alleges that Chinese authorities have expressed unhappiness with the general editorial content of Al Jazeera English and have accused Chan of violating unspecified rules and regulations.
Peter Ford, Vice President of FCCC, has said that Chinese authorities did not present any evidence to prove the allegations, nor was an official explanation given for their action.
According to the New York Times, on the same day the Al-Jazeera satellite broadcasting network was forced by the Chinese authorities to close the Chinese news operations of its English-language channel.
Chan is the first foreign correspondents expelled from China since October 1998, when Japanese journalist Yukihisa Nakatsu was expelled, allegedly in retaliation for critical reporting about China.
“This is not the first case of foreign correspondents being confronted with deliberate obstacles to them working in China. At least two foreign correspondents had their press cards confiscated while covering the recent escape of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng. Regulations on reporting by foreign journalists are also frequently changed to prevent investigation into sensitive topics such as Tibetan-populated areas in Sichuan province and the so-called ‘House Church’ movement.
“The content of a foreign correspondent’s articles is increasingly becoming the critical factor used by Chinese authorities to determine whether a foreign correspondents’ visa will be granted or not.
Media restrictions of this kind are a fundamental violation of the regulations introduced by Chinese authorities after the Olympic Games, which removed access limits to the media except for some particular areas which require a permit”, IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
“The IFJ demands Chinese authorities provide a full explanation of the reasons for the expulsion of Melissa Chan and Al-Jazeera English from China.
We urge China’s government officials to ensure that decisions regarding the granting of visas to foreign correspondents are based on legitimate grounds, rather than a consideration of their editorial content.”
According to the survey conducted by the FCCC, 27 foreign reporters over the past two years have been made to wait more than four months for visa approvals.
Thirteen of these had to wait for more than six months. Three cases applied in 2009 and have yet to receive any response from the authorities. Twenty eight permanent postings or reporting trips had been cancelled since 2009 because applications for the required journalist visas were rejected or ignored by the Chinese authorities.
In six cases foreign reporters say they were told by Foreign Ministry officials that their bureau’s visa applications had been rejected or put on hold due to their previous coverage of Chinese affairs.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
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